Vietnamese officials arrested after gambling billions on chess games

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Two transport officials in southern Vietnam who were caught gambling billions of dong on Chinese chess games have been suspended from their posts and taken into for two months pending investigations.

A VnExpress newswire report Tuesday said Nguyen Thanh Leo, deputy chief of the provincial Transport Department, and Tran Van Tan, director of Soc Trang Province's center for granting driving licenses, would be investigated on charges of gambling.

Meanwhile, Nguyen Thanh Hung and his son, Nguyen Thanh Truyen, together with Mai Chi Khanh, have been asked to report to the police's station for questioning.

They allegedly threatened Leo and his family with death if he did not pay the VND 17 billion (US$809,000) he owed Tan in gambling debts. They were hired by Tan to do so, Leo said. 

Initial information is that Leo and Tan started betting on Chinese chess games in 2009. They initially bet several millions of dong, but gradually raised the stakes to VND1-5 billion ($47,500-237,000) per game.

Leo usually lost and as the stakes increased, his debts to Tan piled up to VND22 billion ($1 million). He sold his properties and borrowed money from acquaintances, but was only able to raise VND5 billion, Leo told the police.

On December 22, Leo turned to local police for help, reporting that Tan had hired people to threaten to kill him and his family in order to force him to pay his debt.

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Following Leo's report, police organized a sting operation and caught the two officials red-handed at a local café.

Further investigations into the case are underway.

Gambling is illegal in Vietnam and Vietnamese nationals are not allowed to enter casinos in the country.

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