Reporter investigated for allegedly taking bribes in southern Vietnam

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(L-R) Duong Van Minh, 24, Nguyen Van Tai, 21, and Vo Thanh Tung, 31. PHOTO: CONG AN NHAN DAN (PEOPLE'S POLICE)

A reporter with Phap Luat Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh (Ho Chi Minh City Law) was detained last Friday by the Ministry of Public Security after police reportedly caught him receiving bribes from a bar owner at a hotel in Dong Nai Province's Bien Hoa Town early this month.

A senior official at the Ministry of Public Security's Anti-Crime Police Department confirmed the detention of Vo Thanh Tung, 31, a Dong Nai resident, to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper Saturday, saying that he will be investigated for "extracting property."

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His accomplices Nguyen Van Tai, 21, a student from Dong Nai University and Duong Van Minh, 24, member of the urban management force of Bien Hoa's Tan Hiep Ward, will be investigated for the same charge.

Tung, who uses the pseudonyms Duy Dong or Vo Tung, filed a series of reports exposing bar violations in Dong Nai July 29-30.

Most heavily exposed was MTM Club, owned by Tran The Duy Thanh, where violations included noise level violations, drug use and pole dancing featuring women in skimpy clothes making seductive gestures.

The reports prompted local authorities to fine several violators.

Apart from fines levied on MTM which included VND15 million (US$711) for seductive pole dancing by the provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism Bien Hoa's Department of Culture and Information has also proposed that provincial authorities consider withdrawing the club's license, according to Phap Luat Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh.

Cong An Nhan Dan (People's Police) reported Saturday that after Tung's first report had been published, Thanh asked to meet Tung to have the latter not write about his bar.

Thanh gave Tung and his accomplices VND15 million in two meetings on July 29-30, but they demanded Thanh transfer another $10,000 to Tai's account if he wanted them not to reveal more of his bar's violations.

But they then changed it to VND200 million ($9,481) and asked Thanh to give the money directly to Tung.

While preparing the money, Thanh filed complaints to the Ministry of Public Security.

Officers from Ministry of Public Security and Dong Nai Police caught Tung August 7 receiving VND50 million from Thanh, the Cong An Nhan Dan report said.

Tai and Minh were arrested the same day.

They have confessed to extracting money from Thanh, according to Cong An Nhan Dan.

The investigation is ongoing.

In an apology letter written to his paper and readers August 13, Tung said: "Readers know me as a journalists fighting against corruption, but I'm facing the punishment of the law because I gave in to material temptations," Cong An Nhan Dan reported.

"I myself took advantage of my career as a journalist for my own profit.

"My acts severely affected the reputation of Phap Luat Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh newspaper, and the image of journalists [in general] and my own in readers' minds.

"I am willing to confess to all my violations and hope that I can correct my mistakes," he said.

Speaking to Tuoi Tre Saturday, Pham Phu Tam, editor-in-chief of Phap Luat Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh, said he only knew what the media had reported as he had yet to receive official information from investigators. 

He said he ordered his agency to contact Cong An Nhan Dan newspaper for information and refused to comment on the case.

Tung started working for Phap Luat Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh in early 2012, and has written many high-profile exposés, including one on traffic police receiving bribes on National Highway 20 in Dong Nai and Lam Dong provinces, which earned him third prize from the HCMC Journalists Association in June.

Tai and Minh were reportedly collaborators with Tung on his previous exposés, including the one about bar violations in Dong Nai, according to Cong An Nhan Dan.

Under Vietnam's Penal Code, anyone who uses violence or dishonesty to take other people's property can be jailed from one to 20 years.

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