Journalist indicted in bribery case he uncovered

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Journalist indicted in bribery case he uncovered

Tuoi Tre Newspaper’s anti-corruption journalist Hoang Khuong has been prosecuted for allegedly bribing a traffic police officer while he was collecting information for an exposé article last year.

2 Journalist Hoang Khuong Photo: Tuoi Tre

>> Tuoi Tre opposes police’s conclusion on Khuong
>> Lawyer opposes detention of Tuoi Tre journalist
>> Police continue to detain “bribing” journalist
>> Corrupt cop exposed by detained journalist Hoang Khuong set free on bail
>> Anti-corruption journalist Hoang Khuong arrested

The Ho Chi Minh City People’s Procuracy has completed an indictment for the prosecution of six defendants, including 37-year-old Nguyen Van Khuong, whose pen name is Hoang Khuong; Huynh Minh Duc, a former traffic police officer in Binh Thanh District; Ton That Hoa, director of Duy Nguyen Private Enterprise; Tran Anh Tuan, vice director of Tan Hai Phong Co Ltd; Tran Minh Hoa, the owner of a motorcycle impounded by the Binh Thanh police, and Nguyen Duc Dong Anh, who is Khuong’s wife’s brother and a friend of Hoa’s.

Duc has been charged with taking bribes while the others have been indicted for giving bribes, the prosecutor’s office said.

The prosecutions were proposed by the city police after a six-month investigation was completed on May 22.

According to the indictment, Duc had abused his position and power in handling two traffic violation cases and received two bribes totaling VND18 million (US$864), which were exposed in two articles written by Hoang Khuong and published in Tuoi Tre last year.

Khuong has been detained since February 2 for investigation regarding his involvement in one of the two bribery cases, in which Duc received a bribe of VND15 million. Duc, 37, has also been in police custody pending trial.

The bribery incident involving Khuong occurred in June 2011 and was exposed in Tuoi Tre’s Vietnamese-language daily newspaper on July 10, and on TuoiTreNews (tuoitrenews.vn) under the title “Traffic cop takes bribe to return bike” the same day.

The prosecutor’s office said that Khuong had suggested the bribe and handed the moeney to Ton That Hoa so that Hoa could give it to Duc in exchange for his help in releasing Tran Minh Hoa’s motorcycle that had been impounded in a traffic violation case.

Khuong used Ton That Hoa as an intermediary after discovering that Hoa had given Duc a VND3 million bribe for releasing Tuan’s trailer truck that had been seized in another traffic violation case, the prosecutor’s office said.

“Khuong’s acts were for his personal interest and beyond the scope of necessary journalistic activities that serve coverage,” the prosecutor’s office said in the indictment.

Meanwhile, Khuong has claimed that he did not bribe anyone and that he only made the mistake of handing the money to Duc on behalf of traffic violator Tran Minh Hoa – an action that was only aimed at obtaining enough evidence for an exposé story about corrupt acts committed by Duc.

After Khuong’s 4-month detention term ended on May 2, police decided to detain him for another three months to “clarify some other issues”. Efforts to bail out Khuong have so far been unsuccessful.

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Lawyer Phan Trung Hoai: “The arrest and prosecution of Khuong was not based on sufficient judicial grounds.” (Photo: Tuoi Tre)

Khuong should be exempt from criminal charges

Lawyer Trinh Minh Tan, from the HCMC Bar Association, demanded that Khuong be exempted from criminal charges in relation to the bribery.

Khuong’s two articles served as clues for the police investigation into Duc’s corruption, and these exposé articles must be seen as one of the types of criminal accusations, according to Article 101 of the Criminal Procedure Code, Tan said.

Such an exemption is also based on Article 100 of the Criminal Procedure Code and Article 289 of the Criminal Code, the lawyer added.

Another lawyer, Truong Xuan Tam, a member of the National Lawyers Association, said that Khuong’s prosecution is unreasonable, since his actions in the case were only aimed at fulfilling the articles that had been assigned to him by the Tuoi Tre Editorial Board.

A person can be indicted for giving bribes only when they use money or material benefit to bribe another person with power and position into doing something for their personal benefit, according to Article 289 of the Criminal Code, Tam said.

Meanwhile, Khuong’s act of indirectly giving the money to Duc had not been for his personal interest, so he should not be indicted for bribery, Tam concluded.

Lawyer Phan Trung Hoai, Khuong’s defense attorney, said the indictment fails to show important evidence that must be obtained to form a basis for such a prosecution, as required in Circular 01/2010 jointly issued by the Supreme People’s Court, the Supreme People’s Procuracy and the Ministry of Public Security on August 27, 2010.

The prosecutor indicted Khuong, but he has yet to clarify the objective and motive of Khuong’s acts in relation to the bribery case.

Hoai pointed out that Khuong’s professional activities that were aimed at collecting information and evidence for his articles has not been mentioned in either the indictment or the police’s investigation conclusion.

According to Hoai, there is now an odd reality that anybody can see: The author of exposé articles in a corruption case has now become a defendant in it.

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