Vietnam’s prosecutors on Wednesday approved the decision to charge Phan Ha Binh, a former journalist of Tien Phong (Vanguard) newspaper, for extorting money.
Phan Ha Binh was caught red-handed while receiving bribes at a restaurant in HCMC
According to police, 41-year-old Binh, whose pen name is Ha Phan and the former deputy managing editor of Tien Phong newspaper, used a news report to blackmail the Saigon-Tan Ky Cement Joint Stock Company.
The blackmailed report came after Binh wrote and published an article about a project of the company, in which there was some sensitive information that would affect the company’s reputation, police said.
According to Binh's first article, the building site in Nghe An central province has been idle for the last four months as Sai Gon Tan Ky has failed to find investors.
Binh repeatedly demanded the company to give him money, otherwise he would write more stories about it, according to police, because under Vietnamese law, a company's investment license can be revoked if a project does not show enough progress.
A company representative handled VND220 million (US$11,000) to him when the police arrived and arrested him at a restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City last October.
'He has many times blackmailed companies. There is a limit for everything, even a worm will turn, so the company reported him to us,' said Lieutenant General Trinh Luong Hy, head of the security investigation agency which arrested Binh.
Binh is likely to face a sentence of between 7 and 15 years' prison if convicted.
Tien Phong often runs investigative stories and is one of the country's best-selling newspapers.