Another Vietnam official accused of gambling billions on Chinese chess

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An unnamed official in the Mekong Delta province of Soc Trang is suspected of gambling away billions of dong on Chinese chess games after being fingered by a former official who is in custody for alleged gambling.

The provincial police said Wednesday that the arrested official, Nguyen Thanh Leo, former deputy chief of the provincial Department of Transport, had told them he used to gamble on chess games with this Soc Trang town official and lost VND2.5 billion (US$118,900).

Police are verifying Leo's claims, according to Phan Huu Thuy, spokesperson of Soc Trang's police division.

Last month Leo and Tran Van Tan, director of the province's Center for Driving Tests and Licensing, were arrested for gambling in a police sting operation following a tip-off from Leo himself.

On December 27 Leo had sought police protection from thugs allegedly hired by Tan to send him death threats in connection with VND17 billion ($809,000) he owed the latter 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 to VND1-5 billion ($47,500-237,000) .

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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.

Further investigation is under way.

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