Gov't official implicated in journalist murder

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A former government official has been accused of obstructing a police investigation into the murder of a journalist.

Prior to his entanglement in the case, Nguyen Van Tam, 49, headed Long An Province's Market Management Unit 5 a government body tasked with controlling smuggling, bootlegging and food safety in Thanh Hoa and Tan Thanh districts.

Tam was implicated in an official dispatch between the Long An Police Department and the provincial Party Unit. Though he has not yet been arrested, the document accused Tam of interfering in a police investigation and official misconduct.

He was dismissed from his job June 11 and is in the process of being expelled from the Communist Party.

On January 19, Tran Thuy Lieu, 40, set her husband, Le Hoang Hung, on fire while he was asleep at their home in a new residential development near the town of Tan An in the Mekong Delta.

The death sparked international headlines.

At the time of the crime, Hung, who had an extensive career at state-run papers, was covering news in Long An, Tien Giang and Ben Tre provinces for Nguoi Lao Dong (Laborer) newspaper.

He died, ten days later, at Ho Chi Minh City's Cho Ray Hospital due to severe burns.

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On February 20, Lieu turned herself in to police and confessed that she had set her husband on fire due to an ongoing argument over money. Hung had refused to sell their three-storey home in the town's Dai Duong urban area to cover her gambling debts.

Following her arrest, Lieu's 17-year-old daughter, Le Hong Nhung delivered handwritten letters written between Tam and her mother to the police and the media. The letters contained an intimate conversation that touched on the substance of Lieu's numerous interrogations by homicide investigators.

When the letters came out, Tam denied that he had written them or that he had carried on an extramarital affair with the journalist's wife.

According to a dispatch from the Long An police to the provincial Party Unit, obtained by Thanh Nien, Tam was involved in several aspects of the case.

"Tam and Lieu have gone to hotels and her house to have sex many times," the dispatch said. "Tam has gambled in Cambodian casinos on many occasions."

The police also wrote that after Hung's death, Tam had visited Lieu's house twice and phoned her on several occasions. During those interactions, police say, Tam attempted to coach Lieu toward misleading the investigators.

Thanks to Tam's tips, Lieu didn't fully confess, hindering the investigation, according to the official document.

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