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Cablegate: National Assemblyman Corruption Case: Bad Timing and Few

VZCZCXRO0790
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #1197 1830919
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 020919Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5758
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 3317
RUEHZS/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS HANOI 001197

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS and DRL/AWH

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EFIN EAID ETRD ECPS PREL PGOV SOCI VM
SUBJECT: NATIONAL ASSEMBLYMAN CORRUPTION CASE: BAD TIMING AND FEW
FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES EQUAL JAIL TIME

Ref: A) HANOI 1016; B) 06 HANOI 771; C) 06 HANOI 1090

Summary
-------

1. (SBU) On June 26, the Supreme People's Court of Appeals (SPCA)
upheld the guilty verdict of Mac Kim Ton, a former National Assembly
(NA) member and Director of the Thai Binh Provincial Education
Department (TBED), for "abusing power in the conduct of his official
duties." Ton had been found guilty last year of receiving a bribe
in return for sending business to a former associate. In spite of
the relatively low sum of cash involved, Ton's bad timing and his
lack of friends in high places made him an easy target for the GVN
in its drive to show that it is serious about tackling corruption.
End Summary.

2. (SBU) On June 26, the Supreme People's Court of Appeals (SPCA)
upheld the guilty verdict of Mac Kim Ton, a former National Assembly
(NA) member and Director of the Thai Binh Provincial Education
Department (TBED), for "abusing power in the conduct of his official
duties" (however, the SPCA reduced his sentence from eight to seven
years in prison). In March, the Thai Binh Provincial People's Court
had sentenced Ton after prosecutors presented "sufficient evidence"
of malfeasance. The NA and TBED also stripped Ton of his positions
after revelations of his alleged corrupt activities came to light.


3. (SBU) The court found Ton guilty of hiring one of his former
students to install computers at public schools in Thai Binh
Province without provincial authorization. Prosecutors charged Ton
with receiving VND 270 million (about USD 16,900) as "thank-you
money" from the public schools. They also charged Ton's associate
with embezzling VND 460 million (about USD 28,700) from the public
schools. Both were required to return their proceeds. Ton had
appealed the provincial court ruling, claiming he was cheated by his
former student. The SPCA commuted Ton's sentence to seven years
after the court learned that his family had turned in VND 100
million (about USD 6,000) as compensation.

Bad Timing and Few Friends
--------------------------

4. (SBU) According to an Office of the National Assembly (ONA)
staffer, Ton's corruption case "was simple in nature" given the fact
that it only involved Ton and his former student. Furthermore, no
one attempted to intervene on Ton's behalf, although Ton had
reportedly sought help from the NA Law Committee and the Supreme
People's Procuracy. Unfortunately for Ton, the scandal's initial
revelation and subsequent trial and appeal took place in the midst
of both the April 2006 Party Congress and the May 2007 National
Assembly election. As a result, "nobody of any rank would risk
their own careers by helping to save Ton, whom most people had
already decided was guilty of corruption," our contact noted. A
separate contact at the Supreme People's Court agreed that Ton's
case was "a simple criminal case" and that Ton was just "hungry for
money."

Comment
-------

5. (SBU) In spite of the relatively low sum of cash involved, Ton's
bad timing and his lack of friends in high places made him an easy
target for the GVN in its drive to show that it is serious about
tackling corruption. However, this case stands in stark contrast to
the PMU-18 scandal, which entailed much larger amounts of cash and
touched relatives of senior GVN figures (Ref A). Unlike Ton,
however, no one connected to the PMU-18 scandal has done any jail
time. End Comment.

MARINE

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