Ex-journalist gets seven-year jail term for extortion

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A former journalist received a seven-year-jail term in Ho Chi Minh City Thursday for extorting over US$110,000 from two companies.

The sentence handed to Phan Ha Binh, the 42-year-old former deputy managing director of Tien Phong Newspaper, was less strict than the ten-year term prosecutors had sought because he was sincere during the investigation and returned the money he stole, the HCMC People's Court said.

Binh told the court he had asked Nguyen Cam Phuong, chief representative of Saigon-Tan Ky Cement Joint-stock Company in HCMC, to pay him to not write unfavorable stories about the company, while he was reporting on Saigon Investment Group member companies last September

After Phuong refused the request, Binh published three articles about the company between September and October last. 

Then he contacted Phuong again, saying that he would stop publishing stories if she paid him VND220 million ($10,560), and that he would write an article favorable to her company if she paid him another $3,000.

After some negotiation, Phuong agreed to his demands, saying that she would pay him VND220 million.

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On October 13, acting on information provided by Phuong, police caught Binh red-handed receiving money from her at a restaurant in HCMC.

During the investigation, Binh also admitted to receiving $1,000 from the HCMC-based Luong Tai Investment and Construction Corporation using the same scheme.

Binh's family later submitted the money to the court.

Hailing from the central province of Binh Dinh, Binh specialized in economics and business stories, and was appointed to the position of deputy managing director of Tien Phong's southern office last October, according to VnExpress.

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