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Vietnam Convicts Ex-Deputy Minister and Son of Taking Bribes

Mai Van Dau, former deputy trade minister of Vietnam, has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for corruption. His son Mai Van Hai, a former official at the same ministry, received five years. They and 12 others were charged with taking bribes from garment companies in exchange for export licenses to the United States. Matt Steinglass in Hanoi has more.

A court in Ho Chi Minh City found the two men guilty and handed down its verdict Friday afternoon after a five-day trial.

Phan Trung Hoai was one of three lawyers on the defense team of former Deputy Trade Minister Dau Mai Van Dau. Hoai says Dau was sentenced to 14 years in prison for taking bribes. He says the son, Hai, got five years for forging documents, and what the prosecution called "swindling."

According to official news reports, 11 other ministry officials and garment company employees were also sentenced. One person was acquitted.

Dau was deputy trade minister in 2004 when police began investigating his son, then an employee at the ministry. A garment exporter had accused Hai of requesting bribes in exchange for hard-to-obtain export licenses to the United States, which were limited by a quota agreement at the time.

The exporter said Hai had taken the bribe, but failed to provide the licenses. The corruption scandal ultimately widened to include Hai's father.

Dau confessed to police, but claimed in court that his confession had been false. He said he had been severely ill and desperate to be released from detention at the time he made his confession.

Lawyer Hoai said Dau had 15 days to appeal. Hoai says he expects Dau to appeal, because the sentence was unfair.

Vietnamese media suggested the investigation into the scandal might widen to other garment companies. Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has made the fight against corruption a top priority.