Vietnam graft crackdown claims first military scalp with 'Little Baldy'

HANOI (Reuters) - A Vietnamese military court on Tuesday sentenced the first military official to go on trial in the communist-ruled country’s ongoing crackdown against corruption to 12 years in jail.

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Former colonel Dinh Ngoc He, known by his nickname “Little Baldy”, was convicted of “abusing power in performance of official duties” and “using fake documents”, the news website of state radio Voice Of Vietnam reported.

“The court said the case nature is very serious, directly harming the rightful operations of state authorities... The culprit’s action seriously affected the prestige of the military and the police,” the report said.

Vietnamese authorities have since 2016 intensified a crackdown on corruption which has led to the arrest of dozens of high-profile business figures and officials, including one member of the politburo.

The crackdown was widened earlier this year to include the military and police force.Dinh Ngoc He abused his position as chairman of Thai Son Joint Stock Company and his military status to get contracts in key national projects, the official Vietnam News Agency said, citing a copy of the indictment.

He also abused his position to obtain military license plates for his company cars and submitted fake university test certificates to the Communist Party in a bid to increase his salary, the indictment said.

The sentencing follows the disciplining of two deputy ministers at the Ministry of Public Security on Saturday, both of whom were stripped of their party credentials by the Communist Party for “lacking responsibility”, the party’s inspection committee said.

On Monday, a Hanoi court sentenced a fugitive Vietnamese tycoon, Phan Van Anh Vu, who previously told his foreign lawyers that he was also a senior officer in Vietnam’s secret police, to nine years in prison for deliberate disclosure of state secrets.

The two cases are unrelated but both have been closely watched in Vietnam for their close ties to several senior government officials, some of whom have since been arrested.

In April, police arrested a former senior police official and a former head of the central city of Danang and placed another former chairman of the city under house arrest, after connecting them to Vu’s case.

Reporting by Khanh Vu; Editing by James Pearson and Nick Macfie