Award-winning reporter arrested for allegedly taking bribes

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Vietnamese police have arrested a reporter with the Phap Luat Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh (Ho Chi Minh City Law) newspaper after they reportedly caught him receiving bribes from a bar owner at a hotel in Dong Nai Province.

Vo Thanh Tung, 31, who uses the pseudonyms Duy Dong or Vo Tung, had recently filed a series of reports exposing violations by bars in the two provinces of Dong Nai and Binh Duong in southern Vietnam.

Tung's reports alleged that the bars were allowing drug use, prostitution and other illegal activities.

Tung was caught at around 11 a.m. Wednesday by police of the Ministry of Public Security and Dong Nai Police.

An unidentified hotel staff who saw the arrest said police handcuffed Tung and another man named Tai after checking a wad of US dollars that the reporter had received, Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reported Thursday.

Police then searched Tung's house in Dong Nai's Vinh Cuu District for more than 3.5 hours beginning 2 p.m. on that day.

His neighbors said police also caught another man named Minh who had come to Tung's house at that time and tried to ride away on his motorbike on seeing the police.

A source told Tuoi Tre that Tai and Minh were collaborators with Tung on his previous exposés. 

Trieu Van Cua, one of Tung's neighbors who was invited to witness the search, said police seized an electric shock baton, a taser, a pair of handcuffs, a set of cudgels, six cartons of documents, a computer, a camera and a camcorder.

A senior official at the Ministry of Public Security's social crimes investigation department (C45) confirmed to Tuoi Tre later that his agency had arrested Tung.

The Phap Luat Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh also published a story on its website about Tung's arrest at 8 a.m. Thursday, but said they had not received any official information from the police and were following the case.

Tung started working for the Phap Luat Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh from early 2012, and has to his credit many high-profile exposés, including one on traffic police receiving bribes on National Highway 20, which runs through Dong Nai and Lam Dong provinces, and another exposing gas stations on the highway serving as a middle party for the bribery.

His report on the wrong procedures followed in incinerating 2.2 tons of seized rotten buffalo and cow feet by Dong Nai authorities won a first prize for news reporting from the HCMC Journalists Association in June 2012. In June this year, his report on corrupt traffic policemen won the third prize from the association.  

Last year, a HCMC court sentenced Nguyen Van Khuong, a Tuoi Tre reporter who wrote under the name Hoang Khuong, to four years in prison after finding him guilty of bribing a city traffic cop to recover a motorbike owned by his brother-in-law's friend. The bike had been seized during an illegal street race.

Khuong maintained he was not guilty and that his actions were part of an undercover investigation into corruption in the city's traffic police sector. The prosecutors rejected his contention and said the bribery was done for personal reasons in this instance.

The Global Corruption Barometer 2013, a Transparency International study that polled 1,000 Vietnamese citizens, showed that the police was seen as the most corrupt 12 institutions included in the survey.

The media was seventh, alongside the military and "political parties."

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