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Vietnamese Police Official Held in Custody over Involvement in Illicit Gambling Activities

The Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security released a statement yesterday, announcing one of its senior police officials was taken into custody on suspicion of being involved with an underground gambling organization that dealt with illegal online gambling and money laundering. Local media reported about the arrest of Nguyen Thanh Hoa, 60 years of age, which took place on Sunday evening.

Hoa, who was in charge of the department of high-technology crimes at the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security, was arrested on allegations of organizing illegal gambling. At the time of the arrest, he was staying in a hospital in the country’s capital Hanoi, where he was allegedly undergoing medical treatment. Following his arrest, the chief police official has been discharged from his position by the President Tran Dai Quang.

It was also revealed the now former police official is to remain in custody for a period of four months as legal proceedings against him take place. He is suspected of using the internet for the purpose of property appropriation, money laundering, and the organization of illicit gambling activities on the territory of Phu Tho, among several other Vietnamese provinces.

Both the arrest of Hoa and the decision to initiate legal proceedings against him were approved by the People’s Procuracy. Further investigation on the liabilities of the parties involved in the case is also on its way.

Hoa’s Arrest is Part of a Massive Government Crackdown against Corruption

According to a statement released on the Vietnamese government’s website, other police officials may also have been involved in the criminal organization, which is said to operate as a part of a worldwide network handling millions of dollars. The Vietnamese government is currently undertaking a massive crackdown on corruption and Hoa is by far the most senior police official to get arrested on suspicion of involvement in illegal activities.

The former police official was previously responsible for tracking down illicit internet activities which also included frauds and unauthorized online betting. Over the last few years, Hoa was involved in a number of raids against virtual gambling and was responsible for shutting down hundreds of unauthorized websites that accepted illegal football bets back in 2012.

The anti-graft campaign initiated by the Vietnamese government targets high-ranking officials, bankers, and businessmen. The state which ranks second on Forbes’ list of Asia’s most corrupt countries with a bribery rate of 65% has been repeatedly attempting to tackle the issue over the years, but according to observers this is by far its most aggressive campaign.

The communist country’s anti-corruption campaign attracted international attention in 2017 following the kidnapping of oil executive Trinh Xuan Thanh who fled from his native Vietnam to Berlin in an attempt to escape prosecution on charges of misappropriation and mismanagement. Both offences are punishable by death under Vietnamese law. Thanh was seeking refuge in Germany but disappeared from one of Berlin’s parks in the summer of 2017 and was returned forcefully to Vietnam to eventually receive two life sentences after being found guilty on charges of embezzlement.

The anti-graft crackdown attracted further attention when Dinh La Thang, a former member of the Vietnamese PolitBuro, was sentenced to 13 years in jail, along with dozens of other Vietnamese officials.

Vietnamese citizens are prohibited from participating in gambling activities, with luxury casinos being available only to foreigners. Last year the Vietnamese government announced its plans to ease off on sports betting and allow some of the citizens to gamble at casinos as part of a trial.