Four journalists in central Vietnam have been sent to prison for extorting more than VND260 million ($11,500) from businesses by uncovering wrongdoing on their part and blackmailing them.
A Ha Tinh Province court on Thursday handed down jail sentences of four years to Dinh Bao Trung, 33, 3.5 years to Nguyen Quoc Khanh, 38, nine months to Le Duc Diep, 32, and six months to Phan Van Minh, 31.
While working as reporters and contributors at various newspapers and magazines, the four used to visit construction and mining sites around Ha Tinh, take incriminating photos and videos and write about the wrongdoing committed by various companies.
But before publishing, they would offer the businesses a deal saying they would not publish them if they were paid.
The group was busted last year.
After writing an article about the poor quality of a construction project in Loc Ha District for a magazine, Trung sent it to the contractor on May 6 and tried his usual blackmailing tactic.
They settled on an amount of VND45 million.
Two days later Trung met the company’s chairman at a hotel in Ha Tinh Town. The latter wanted to hand over the money at the hotel, but Trung refused and instead told him to give him the envelope in his car and leave.
The man followed his instructions, but as Trung drove away with the money, he was stopped by police officers.
They arrested him and seized the envelope with VND45 million inside.
They then took in Khanh in May and Diep and Minh in June.
The four confessed to working together to blackmail businesses.
According to investigators, the group had extorted more than VND260 in 10 different cases between March 2020 and May 2021.
Trung was the mastermind and had pocketed VND103 million.
Khanh was involved in nine cases and got more than VND83 million.
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