The trial of two former senior policemen allegedly involved in a multimillion-dollar online gambling case has begun today, at the Phu Tho People’s Court in the northern province.
Senior officials Phan Van Vinh and Nguyen Thanh Hoa have been charged with “abuse of power or position in performance of official duties” in relation to gambling offences and could be sentenced for anywhere between five and 10 years if found guilty.
Vietnam is only just starting to attract investors thanks to new sports betting legislation, so the police will want to be tough on illegal gambling.
Senior police officers
It appears that both police officers who are currently standing trial held high ranks within the force. Phan Van Vinh is the former director of the General Police Department under the Ministry of Public Security, while Nguyen Thanh Hoa was the director of the ministry’s Department for High-Tech Crime Prevention.
In one of the biggest cases in Vietnam, there are another 90 other defendants who have been charged in connection with the case. The charges include gambling, organizing gambling, money laundering and trading illegal receipts.
As a result of the scale of the investigation, the trial is expected to last up to 20 days and is being guarded by up to 90 policeman.
According to investigations, Phan Van Vinh had helped Nguyen Thanh Hoa and Nguyen Van Duong to set up a tech security company called CNC, which was actually used to set up a gambling ring. When the operation was discovered by authorities it was estimated to be worth around $420m.
Nguyen Van Duong was previously one of Nguyen Thanh Hoa’s colleagues, working to provide technical support. They set up the gambling service in May 2015 alongside Phan Sao Nam, former chairman and founder of the successful online communication firm VTC.
Investigators understand the gambling ring was headed up by Nam and Duong, and was based on the Rikvip/Tip.club portals. The ring is understood to have grown rapidly in scale, and ended by operating with 25 so-called “tier 1 agencies” and just under 5,900 “tier 2 agencies.”
The operation had attracted around 43m users since its launch in 2015, and is believed to have generated more than $426m with a profit of just under $202m.
It is understood from the investigation that Nam received approximately $65m of the profit, while Duong received around $69m. A group of other suspects are thought to have gained around $68m also.
Uncovered through mobile phone fraud
The gambling ring was first uncovered by authorities when police were investigating mobile top-up card fraud. The scammer claimed he had used the proceeds of his crimes to gamble online.
When looking into the website that the defendant had claimed to have been using, the police discovered the gambling sites that offered the opportunity to gamble in virtual currency before cashing out into real money.
Prosecutors claim that Vinh actively signed documentation to prevent the ring from being uncovered and turned a blind eye to the claims. Hoa followed Vinh’s instructions to sign documentation allowing the gambling ring to continue operating.
Whatever the outcome, these alleged crimes will have severe consequences, as organizing gambling is punishable by up to 10 years in prison under the law in Vietnam.