Ex-officials' sentences reduced in high-profile gambling case

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Two of three former officials in the Mekong Delta Province of Soc Trang have had their sentences reduced in a gambling case that made headlines in Vietnam last year.

At an appeals hearing held by the People's Supreme Court in Ho Chi Minh City on Thursday, the judges halved the four-year jail term of Dinh Van Muoi, former deputy chief of the Soc Trang Town Party Unit's Inspection Committee.

The judges also decreased the sentence of Tran Van Tan, former director of the province's Center for Driving Tests and Licensing, from 17 and a half years to 11 and a half years.

Both Tan and Muoi were found guilty of gambling billions of dong on Chinese chess games with Nguyen Thanh Leo, former deputy director of the provincial transport department, at the first hearing in July.

While they later filed petitions asking for reduced sentences, Leo, who received five years in jail gambling at the first hearing, did not file an appeal.

The appeals court also reduced the sentences of Tran Thanh Hung and his son, Tran Thanh Truyen, from 12 years to eight years each.

Hung and Truyen were hired by Tan to send death threats to Leo to ask the latter to pay his gambling debts. The trio was convicted of "depriving the property of others."

The judges said that the four defendants had their sentences reduced because they gave "honest" testimonies and "fixed part of the consequences" of their wrongdoings.

The last person involved in the case, Ngo Hue Phan, who brokered the gambling between Muoi and Leo, did not file appeal for a decrease in her two-year sentence.

The case was exposed last December when Leo sought police protection from Hung and Truyen. Following Leo's tip, police organized a sting operation and caught Leo and Tan red-handed in a café

Further investigations showed a long history of gambling between Muoi and Leo.

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Leo owed Tan VND17 billion (US$809,000) and VND2.5 billion ($119,000) to Muoi at the time the three were busted, according to the indictment.

Gambling is illegal in Vietnam. Those convicted face two to seven years in prison according to the second clause of Penal Code's Article 248, which stipulates punishments for professional gamblers, repeat offenders and those whose gambling involved at least VND50 million ($2,400).

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