A death sentence for violations in a multimillion-dollar TV firm acquisition has been lodged against former minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Bac Son.
The sentence was announced on Friday morning at an on-going trial which will run from December 16-31 in the Hanoi People’s Court in case of 14 defendants, including former executives of state-owned telecom giant MobiFone and private pay-TV firm Audio Visual Global (AVG).
At the trial, two former ministers of Information and Communications, Nguyen Bac Son and Truong Minh Tuan, were both charged with violating regulations on the management and use of public capital that led to serious consequences and taking bribes. The two were arrested in February and expelled from the Communist Party of Vietnam in October this year.
Speaking at the Friday court, a representative of the people’s procuracy said that as a minister with the highest position among other defendants, Nguyen Bac Son played a decisive role in the implementation of the acquisition project.
Son was Minister of Information and Communications from 2011 to 2016. Tuan took the same position from 2016 and was suspended in July last year and dismissed in a secret ballot by the legislative National Assembly three months later.
The indictment said that in 2015, MobiFone, an enterprise under the Ministry of Information and Communications, wanted to venture into the pay-TV market by acquiring a 95% stake worth some VND8.9 trillion (USD346.2 million) in private pay-TV provider AVG, way above the real value of the struggling pay TV provider at the time.
To magnify the value of AVG, former chairman Pham Nhat Vu claimed a foreign partner had agreed to pay USD700 million for the stake in the pay-TV provider and had placed a USD10 million deposit as a guarantee.
Vu later repeatedly urged Son, Tuan, who was then Son’s deputy, and leaders of MobiFone to speed up the sale of his company’s stake.
Under Son’s direction, in late 2015, MobiFone acquired a 95% stake, causing losses of nearly VND6.6 trillion (USD284.4 million) to the state budget.
Despite knowing that the prime minister had yet to approve the deal, Son asked Tuan to sign Decision 236 approving Mobifone’s acquisition of AVG, and asked Le Nam Tra and Cao Duy Hai, chairman and general director of MobiFone, respectively, at the time, to sign the deal.
After the deal was struck, Son received USD3 million in bribes from Vu.
Vu also offered Tuan USD200,000, Tra USD2.5 million, and Hai USD500,000.
“Son at first denied being the mastermind of the case. However, with sufficient evidence to determine that he had directed, decided and accelerated the acquisition of AVG’s stake, he then admitted his role. Therefore, Son must bear the strongest consequences,” the people’s procuracy told the court on December 20.
For Truong Minh Tuan, the procuracy proposed 6-7 years in prison for violating regulations on public investment management, causing serious consequences and 8-9 years of imprisonment for accepting a USD 200,000 bribe, with the combined sentence of 14-16 years in prison.
The combined punishment for Le Nam Tra was proposed at 23-25 years in prison for two charges of violating regulations on public investment management, causing serious consequences and accepting a bribe. Tra was said to have received USD 2.5 million.
Meanwhile, the overall sentence for Cao Duy Hai was proposed at 14-16 years in prison for two charges of violating regulations on public investment management, causing serious consequences and accepting a USD500,000 bribe.
Sentences ranging from 2 to 6 years of imprisonment were proposed for the group of defendants charged with violating regulations on public investment management, causing serious consequences.
Meanwhile, a sentence of 3 to 4 years was proposed for Pham Nhat Vu, former chairman of AVG, for offering a bribe.
In addition, the procuracy proposed an additional punishment for 12 defendants, banning them from holding positions in the field for 1 to 3 years after completing their time in prison.