High-Ranking Vietnam Official Caught in Gambling Bust

  • Vietnam has traditionally had conservative gambling laws
  • Illegal gambling operations are rife in the region
  • In March 2018, a major gambling ring dealing with over $420m in funds was discovered
  • A number of senior government officials were allegedly involved in this illegal ring
Police handcuffs on flag of Vietnam
A high ranking government official in Vietnam has been linked to a major illegal gambling ring.

Gambling Tradition in Vietnam

Traditionally, the gambling sector in Vietnam has been quite restrictive, which led to the underground gambling scene becoming very popular.

Since the Communist Party came to power in 1975, most forms of gambling have been illegal. However, Vietnamese people love gambling, so many of them go to the underground.

Previously, if a person illegally bet of more than $88 (£68), they would be looking at prison time. If the bet was worth more than $2,200 (£1,702), they could be sent to jail for between two and seven years.  However, a new law in 2017 made it legal for Vietnam citizens to gamble in certain facilities.

That law will be in effect for a three-year trial period. To gamble legally, someone must earn at least $455 (£352) per month, must not have a criminal record, and must get family permission. A daily entry fee of $44 (£34) is charged to get into a casino.

Since 2017, the country has been running a five-year trial program that allows betting on greyhound races, horse races, and international football.

Illegal Gambling Still a Major Concern

Despite the easing of some gambling laws, there is still a massive market for underground gambling.

The authorities broke up a major illegal gambling ring in March 2018. This ring was handling over $420m (£325m) in funds. Over 90 people were arrested as part of this operation.

This type of raid is becoming the norm in Vietnam.

Senior Official in Hot Water

Dang Anh Tuan, the chief inspector of the information ministry, is in detention because of that March gambling bust.

According to the police investigation, evidence suggests Dang could have been helping the leaders of the gambling ring, including attempting to stop the police from doing anything about the ring. Naturally, if the latter claim is true, it did not end very well for Dang or the ring leaders.

Dang’s office and home in Hanoi were raided by the police, but no relevant information was found at either location.

In 2016, the information ministry first heard rumors about a major illegal gambling ring. Dang’s role as the chief inspector was to look into this rumor. He reported that there was no evidence of a ring and the investigation was dropped.

Now it looks as if Dang might have used his government position to offer protection to this illegal ring to offer it protection.

Two Other Senior Officials Detained

Two other senior officials were previously in detention for their involvement in this apparent illegal gambling ring.

Nguyen Thanh Hoa, formerly the Information Ministry’s high tech crime prevention leader, was found to be a core member of the ring. The former General Police Department director, Phan Van Vink, also face similar charges.

A variety of charges were lodged against the 90 people who were arrested following this investigation. The charges included money laundering, asset misappropriation, illegal invoice trading, and organized gambling.

Of the 90 people, 17 were fined $1,723 (£1,333), 22 got probation, and the remaining 51 were sentenced to prison. The longest sentence was three years.

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