Death sentence upheld for gangster-businessman in border province

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An appeals court in Quang Ninh Province in northern Vietnam on Friday upheld the death sentence awarded to a gangster and company director who ordered his people to kill two rivals in a business conflict.

Nguyen Tien Phuong, 55, was the director of Quang Phat Company, notorious for dominating the border gate food export market to China from 2000 onwards by intimidating competitors.

Phuong had on hand a gang of around 70 people willing to follow his orders.

In May 2009, Phuong had Le Van Diep and Nguyen Chi Cong, then 38-year-old employees of the Hong Cong Company, taken to China and beaten to death. Three Vietnamese and five Chinese nationals carried out Phuong's bidding.

Hong Cong Company director Le Huu Vinh had several days before the murder asked for Phuong's permission to export some products to China but the latter did not grant it.

So Vinh and several people, including the two victims, went to a border guard station and were let through, angering Phuong.

He ordered the murder and paid the Chinese 200,000 Yuan (US$31.340) to dispose of the bodies. Tri's body was thrown into a river in a sack, while Diep's was found by Quang Ninh Police in October 2009 in a mountain range.

There's no information available about if the Chinese have been identified and put in police custody.

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The court of first instance had in August 2010 sentenced Phuong's brother, Nguyen Tien Chung, 49, to death and his employee Bui Hai Bai, 48, to life for their involvement in the murder. They filed an appeal, asking for lighter sentences.

While upholding the death sentence for Phuong, the appeals court reduced Chung's sentence to life imprisonment, and Bai's to 20 years in jail.

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