Ex-minister gets life in Vietnam graft case

Ex-minister gets life in Vietnam graft case

Struggling digital TV firm acquired by state telco for 10 times its actual value

Defendants in the Mobifone graft case listen as the judge reads the verdict in their trial on Saturday in Hanoi. Among those sentenced to prison were former information and communication minister Nguyen Bac Son (left), valuer Hoang Duy Quang (second from left), former Mobifone chairman Le Nam Tra (second from right), and Truong Minh Tuan (right) who succeeded Nguyen Bac Son as information and communication minister. (VTV via AP)
Defendants in the Mobifone graft case listen as the judge reads the verdict in their trial on Saturday in Hanoi. Among those sentenced to prison were former information and communication minister Nguyen Bac Son (left), valuer Hoang Duy Quang (second from left), former Mobifone chairman Le Nam Tra (second from right), and Truong Minh Tuan (right) who succeeded Nguyen Bac Son as information and communication minister. (VTV via AP)

HANOI: A Vietnamese court on Saturday sentenced an ex-minister to life imprisonment in a multi-million-dollar corruption case in which another minister and a dozen executives also received lengthy prison terms, state media reported.

Nguyen Bac Son was accused of taking a bribe of US$3 million to orchestrate the 2016 acquisition of a digital television service on behalf of state-owned Mobifone, one of the largest mobile network operators in the country, when he was minister of information and communication.

The transaction involved the purchase of 95% of the shares of the indebted company Audio Visual Global (AVG) for an equivalent of $383.83 million — a price that had been inflated almost 10 times, the state television outlet VTV reported.

Son, a former military officer, was sentenced to life for taking bribes plus 16 years on a charge of violating public investment management regulations. His combined punishment is life imprisonment, VTV quoted the presiding judge as saying after the two-week trial concluded in Hanoi.

Truong Minh Tuan, Son’s former deputy who succeeded him as minister upon his retirement, was sentenced to 14 years in prison on the same charge. Tuan was accused of taking $500,000 in bribes to sign the acquisition deal.

Le Nam Tra, the former chairman of Mobifone, and Cao Duy Hai, the company’s former executive director, were handed 23 years and 14 years in prison, respectively, on bribery and mismanagement charges. Tra was accused of taking a $2.5-million bribe while Hai pocketed $500,000.

AVG CEO Pham Nhat Vu was sentenced to three years in prison on a charge of giving bribes.

Nine others, including officials and executives, received between two and six years in prison in the same case.

The MobiFone case is the largest corruption investigation so far in Vietnam’s anti-graft campaign that has already engulfed hundreds of government officials.

A plan to sell a stake in MobiFone has long been touted as one of the most anticipated in Vietnam’s drive to privatise state-owned companies, but it has never materialised.

The government said earlier it would sell a stake of up to 50% in MobiFone by the end of 2020. 


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