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12 Jan 2022

The Vietnamese Magazine

Vietnam: Former journalist and NGO founder sentenced to 4 years after acting as independent observer for EU-VN Free Trade Agreement

"Mai Phan Loi: Former Vietnamese Journalist Jailed For 4 Years", 12 January 2022

On January 11, 2022, the Hanoi People’s Court held a trial for Mai Phan Loi, a former journalist and founder of a nonprofit organization, over “tax evasion” charges. The court sentenced the former journalist to a total of 48 months in jail on the same day...

Mai Phan Loi, 50-years-old, is a former editor-in-chief of Phap Luat, a prominent state-run magazine focused on legal issues. In 2016, he was one of the representatives of the Vietnamese civil organization allowed to meet then-President Barack Obama in Hanoi. Loi was officially arrested in July and consequently charged with “committing tax evasion” under Article 200 of Vietnam’s Penal Code.

He was also the founder and director of the Center for Media in Educating Community (MEC), a nonprofit organization that has a communication channel called GTV, which produces education shows for the public on various communication skills and techniques...

State media also quoted the investigation agency’s conclusion that Loi and his crime partner, Dang Dinh Bach, had evaded and benefited in nearly 2 billion dong ($88,000) from financial donations worth more than 19 billion dong that his organization had received.

Loi and Bach, who received 30 months in jail, are both executive board members of VNGO-EVFTA Network, a group of seven community service organizations (CSOs) established last November to satisfy the formation of the Domestic Advisory Group (DAG), a civil society component of the EU-VN Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA)...

The imprisonment of Mai Phan Loi is widely seen as an effort by Hanoi to prevent the establishment of this group... The Vietnamese authorities often use “tax evasion” charges to stifle critical and influential voices when they do not have strong evidence to prosecute using “anti-state” allegations...