Another official arrested in Mekong Delta gambling bust

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Police in the Mekong Delta province of Soc Trang on Wednesday arrested a Party official for allegedly gambling away billions of dong on Chinese chess games after the official was fingered by another who is in custody for alleged gambling.

Dinh Van Muoi, deputy chief of Soc Trang Town Party Unit's Inspection Committee, will be detained for two months for further investigation into his gambling acts.

Muoi, 56, was previously suspended from his post.

Muoi was arrested after Nguyen Thanh Leo, deputy director of Soc Trang Province Transport Department, confessed to police that he had lost VND2.5 billion (US$119,000) in gambling to Muoi, and paid VND1.9 billion of the sum.

Leo said he and Muoi usually played chess at coffee shops in a tourism area.

Muoi is said to be a rich man with a luxury car and a villa in the city's downtown area.

Last month, Leo and Tran Van Tan, director of a state-owned driver's training center in Soc Trang, were arrested for gambling in a police sting operation following a tip-off from Leo.

On Dec. 27, 2011, Leo sought police protection from thugs hired by Tan to send him death threats in connection with VND17 billion ($809,000) he owed Tan in gambling debts.

It is believed that Leo and Tan started betting on Chinese chess games in 2009. They initially bet a few million dong on a game, but gradually raised the stakes from VND1 billion to VND5 billion ($47,500 to $237,000).

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Leo consistently lost, and his debt to Tan piled up to VND22 billion ($1 million). He sold his properties and borrowed money from acquaintances, but was only able to raise VND5 billion, he told the police.

Following Leo and Tan's arrests, police also arrested two gangsters, Nguyen Thanh Hung and his son, Nguyen Thanh Truyen, hired by Tan to acquire the debt payments from Leo.

The two men will be detained for four months on charges of "appropriating properties."

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