A former journalist of Tien Phong Newspaper was sentenced to jail for seven years on August 25 for blackmailing local companies.
Phan Ha Binh at the trial
42-year-old Phan Ha Binh, whose pen name was "Ha Phan", was arrested in October 2010, while he was serving as Deputy Managing Editor of Tien Phong Newspaper.
At the trial, Binh refused legal representation and confessed to misconduct, including violating journalistic standards.
In September 2010, Phan Ha Binh was investigating a case involving Saigon Invest Group (SGI), and its affiliates. Aware of the problems SGI were facing in one of its projects, Binh exploited the opportunity to earn some money.
He met SGI Public Relation Director Nguyen Cam Phuong and demanded that the company pay him or he would write articles damaging to the company’s reputation.
When this failed, the journalist wrote a scathing piece about the company, in which he said SGI had left a project in Nghe An Province to lie idle for months because of failing to find investors.
He later wrote two more denigrating articles about SGI affiliates, Saigon-Quy Nhon Mineral Joint Stock Company, in particular.
Paying the price
After the three articles were published, Phuong agreed to pay Binh VND220 million (USD10,679). But she also contacted the police.
They agreed to meet on October 13 at a restaurant. Just after the money was exchanged, police came in to arrest Binh.
Immediately after the arrest, Bui Dinh Hung, Chairman of Luong Tai Construction and Investment Corporation, also accused Binh of similar activities.
Binh later admitted that the articles he wrote about SGI included his personal comments, and were not objective.
The VND220 million was returned to SGI.
Binh was sentenced to seven years in prison by the People's Court of Ho Chi Minh City, which was less than the sentence proposed by the People's Procuracy.
Reporters at the trial
Taken to prison
Caught taking a VND220 million bribe