Wednesday , May 29 2024

Former deputy foreign minister gets commuted sentence in Covid flight scandal

The sentence for former deputy foreign minister To Anh Dung for receiving bribes in organizing Covid-19 repatriation flights has been reduced from 16 years to 14 years in prison.

An appeal court on Wednesday in Hanoi also commuted the sentence for Do Hoang Tung, former deputy head of the Consular Department, from 12 to 10 years in jail.

The Hanoi High Court said Dung and Tung had fulfilled their obligation and returned all the bribes they had taken, which was VND21.5 billion (US$880,407) for Dung and VND12 billion for Tung.

The appeal hearing began on Dec. 25 to re-try 21 people who filed appeals to their convictions in the Covid-19 repatriation flight bribery case.

The verdict kept the life sentence unchanged for three people: former secretary to the Deputy Minister of Health Pham Trung Kien, former head of the Consular Department under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Nguyen Thi Huong Lan, and Vu Anh Tuan, former official at the Immigration Management Department under the Ministry of Public Security.

The court said the three defendants had received “exceptionally large bribes,” with Kien taking VND42.6 billion, Tuan VND27 billion and Lan VND25 billion.

Kien and Tuan had returned all the money while Lan returned VND6.2 billion but their crimes had caused public upset and had to be strictly handled, the judge panel said.

The appeal court also commuted the sentence for Hoang Van Hung, a former Ministry of Public Security investigator, from life imprisonment to 20 years behind bars for taking bribes. It said Hung had many achievements in his work and two of his uncles are war martyrs.

A total of 54 people went on trial in July regarding the Covid-19 repatriation flight bribery scandal. They were charged with numerous crimes, including bribery and abuse of power. The 18-day trial ended with four life sentences, 30 prison sentences of up to 16 years, and 10 suspended sentences.

From 2020 to 2021, 372 combo flights to bring Vietnamese citizens back to the country were organized. For the flights to be approved, 20 businesses gave bribes a total of 515 times, totaling $6.8 million in value. They charged people who needed to come home very high prices to offset the bribe money.

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