|Former communications minister Nguyễn Bắc Son (standing) says his last words before the sentencing in a trial into the hideous AVG deal. —VNA/VNS Photo
HÀ NỘI — Former minister Nguyễn Bắc Son on Tuesday begged for leniency for himself and other defendants in the high-profile graft trial.
The 66-year-old former communications minister said in his final statements before sentencing that he "seriously acknowledged his responsibilities as a leader and was aware of his especially grave wrongdoing".
“I apologise to the General Secretary, the Party, the State and the communications sector and the people for my wrongdoings which has caused public anger, eroding trust of the people and other communications officers’ and corrupting the image of the sector and MobiFone,” Son said in court.
Son has been labelled by prosecutors as the mastermind behind a deal in 2015 in which the State-owned communications group MobiFone purchased 95 per cent of shares of Audio Visual Global JSC (AVG) at a much higher price than they were actually worth.
A Government inspection last year found the deal had cost the State approximately VNĐ6.47 trillion (US$281.5 million).
Apart from Son, other high-level officials including his successor Trương Minh Tuấn, 59, and MobiFone’s former chairman Lê Nam Trà and CEO Cao Duy Hải, both 58, were accused of connections to the deal.
Tuấn should face a jail term of between 14 and 16 years, according to prosecutors. They also asked for Trà to be imprisoned for 23-25 years and Hải for 14 to 16 years.
Son asked the jury for a lenient penalty for his partners in crime and other MobiFone officials involved in the deal so they could soon return to the company after serving their time.
Regarding AVG ex-chairman Phạm Nhật Vũ, who faces 3-4 years in jail for giving bribes to the foursome to smooth the purchase, Son said the businessman had handed over nearly VNĐ9 trillion (US$391.3 million) he benefited from the deal.
The 47-year-old Vũ also made enormous contributions to the country and helped develop bilateral ties between Việt Nam and Russia, the former communications minister said.
“As for myself, this is a costly lesson I’ve received after more than 40 years of working. With the accusation from the procuracy, I might have to pay with my own life,” Son said, staring down at the floor.
The prosecutors in their opening statements proposed a death penalty for the former minister for his alleged breaches of public investment management causing severe consequences and bribery.
Son begged for a lenient punishment to give him "the chance to live with family, friends and comrades after serving my sentence".
Another ex-communications minister standing trial, Trương Minh Tuấn, also expressed his regrets and repentance.
“I’ve had 41 years serving the country, including 10 years in the army and there were times I stood guarding the border in the north. It never once occurred to me that there would be a day I’d come to a bitter end like this – saying my last words in a trial which will soon deliver my sentence,” Tuấn said.
“My violations are like cuts of a blade that will leave scars on my soul for the rest of my life,” he said, barely holding back the tears.
The ex-official also asked for a lighter sentence, though he admitted the prosecutors had already showed leniency for him.
Hà Nội People’s Court opened a trial against 14 defendants in the case last Monday and a verdict is expected on the morning of December 28. — VNS