Ex-journalist prosecuted for extortion

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The Supreme People's Procuracy, Vietnam's highest office of prosecutors, has ratified charges against former deputy managing editor of Tien Phong newspaper for extorting US$11,700 from two companies last year.


According to the indictment, last September, Phan Ha Binh, 42, collected information to write about some projects developed by the Saigon Invest Group's affiliates.


Binh asked Nguyen Cam Phuong, head of communications at the group, to pay him some money in return for not writing stories unfavorable to her company.


As Phuong turned down his demand, Binh, under his pen name Ha Phan, published on the Hanoi-based Tien Phong newspaper three articles covering ineffective projects implemented by the Saigon Invest Group's affiliates.


He then contacted Phuong again, asking her to pay him VND200 million ($9,700) to stop more unfavorable stories from being published.

Binh also said that if Phuong gave him another $3,000, he would write an article that helped the group regain its image.


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After some negotiations, Phuong agreed to pay Binh VND220 million ($10,700).


On October 13, the police, after getting a tip-off from Phuong, caught Binh red-handed receiving money from her at a restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City.


The indictment also said that Binh had previously received $1,000 from HCMC-based Luong Tai Investment and Construction Corporation using the same scheme.


Binh now faces a jail term of between seven and 15 years for "extorting property".

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