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Former senior police officials to stand trial over online gambling ring

Phan Van Vinh, former head of the General Police Department, and Nguyen Thanh Hoa, former director of the Anti-high-tech Crime Police Department – both under the Ministry of Public Security – are expected to go on trial next month for their alleged involvement in a multimillion-dollar online gambling ring.

A combination file photo of Nguyen Thanh Hoa (L), former director of the Anti-high-tech Crime Police Department, and Phan Van Vinh, former head of the General Police Department at the Ministry of Public Security
A combination file photo of Nguyen Thanh Hoa (L), former director of the Anti-high-tech Crime Police Department, and Phan Van Vinh, former head of the General Police Department at the Ministry of Public Security

A representative of the People’s Court of Phu Tho Province said that the court will put the duo and 90 other defendants on trial for one or more counts of gambling, organizing gambling, illegally trading invoices, laundering money, using the Internet to appropriate assets, and abusing their position and power while on duty.

Vinh, 63, was recently admitted to Phu Tho General Hospital for treatment due to failing health. However, it remains unconfirmed whether his health issues will affect the trial, as his actual condition must be taken into account, according to a leader of the provincial People’s Procuracy.

In late August, the local procuracy completed the indictment of Vinh and Hoa for allegedly abusing their positions and power while on duty, based on Article 356 of the 2015 Penal Code. If found guilty, the pair could face five to 10 years in prison.

The provincial police uncovered the gambling ring while investigating a fraud case involving mobile phone top-up cards in May 2017. The scammer told investigators that he had redeemed all the cards for virtual currencies used in an online gambling card game.

While investigating this claim, police discovered the extensive online gambling ring run by Phan Sao Nam, 39, former chairman of local online game firm VTC Online, and Nguyen Van Duong, 43, ex-chairman of Hi-Tech Security Development and Investment Co., Ltd (CNC).

On Rikvip or Tip.club, players were able to gamble with virtual money and convert their winnings to real money. Players could obtain virtual money by redeeming mobile phone top-up cards or CNC’s prepaid cards or by paying the tech companies through bank transfers.

Investigators found that the portals had started operating in April 2015, drawing some 14 million players, with bets worth roughly VND9.6 trillion (US$415 million) in circulation. The two masterminds – Nam and Duong – had gained some VND3.2 trillion (US$138 million) from the ring, making it the largest and most profitable gambling network to be uncovered in the country.

The 60-year-old Hoa, then-director of the Anti-high-tech Crime Police Department, allegedly provided protection for this gambling ring, rather than prosecuting those responsible. He and many other police officers in the department were suspended late last year pending further investigation.

Vinh, while serving as the national police chief between December 2014 and April last year, was also aware of the existence of the online gambling ring but took no action. According to the prosecutors, his violations are extremely serious because they harmed the prestige of the police.