Hanoi court reduces sentences in telecom fraud case

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A Hanoi court Wednesday reduced jail terms to two Vietnamese citizens involved in a US$1 million telecom fraud, saying they were tools, not accomplices of the main fraudster who managed to escape.

The sentences were reduced from 12-13 years handed down by a trials court three years ago to 30 months and 30 month probation.

According to the prosecutors, Mai Thi Khanh, 62, and Bui Ngoc Hai, 41, did help in the crime but they knew nothing about the fraudulent intentions of British national Chan Yiu Wah Bosco, news website VnExpress reported Thursday.

In December 1999, Bosco rented eight rooms at Khanh's hotel in Hanoi for $2,000 a month and was given a terrace room for free for storing equipment.

The rooms were used to install antennas and VSAT satellite stations, or Very Small Aperture Terminal Satellite Equipment, to receive telecom signals and trade international telecom services.

Bosco escaped in May 2000 when the case was busted, after stealing more than $1.1 million in telecommunication fees from Vietnam telecom agencies, according to official estimates.

Khanh had given Bosco freedom to install equipment on the roof of the hotel and in his rooms, according to the indictment.

She also helped the man subscribe to 24 telephone numbers at the Hanoi post office on behalf of the hotel, and asked her staff to clean his rooms only when he requested.

During Bosco's stay, Hai worked as his interpreter and direct manager of his eight rooms.

Hai also helped the man install a similar VSAT station for illegal telecom trading on Tran Hung Dao Street in Hanoi, which caused damages of almost $25,000 to the state budget.

The Hanoi People's Court Wednesday said Khanh and Hai were guilty of not reporting the crime, but added they were only tools of Bosco.

Khanh and Hai have said they would appeal the verdict again.

The case had been suspended several times since 2000 to search for more evidence, and the main criminal has always been absent.

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