When Vo Van Minh gained the consent of Tan Hiep Phat Co. Ltd., a leading beverage company in Vietnam, to pay him 23,000 USD in exchange for his silence over a soft drink bottle with a dead fly inside, he did not expect that the company would secretly report their deal to the police. Minh was arrested shortly after and charged with “extortion of property” under Article 135 of the Penal Code.
On January 3, when opening a Number One bottle for his diners, Minh, a restaurant owner in the southern province of Tien Giang, found a dead fly in the bottle. He later called the company, Tan Hiep Phat, to arrange an appointment. In the subsequent meetings with Tan Hiep Phat’s representatives, Minh asked for VND 1 billion (approximately US$ 46,000) and threatened to bring the case to the public.
After three rounds of negotiations, Tan Hiep Phat agreed to pay Minh half of the sum he asked, and they secretly reported the story to local police. On January 27, Minh was caught receiving money from the company’s representatives and has been in detention since then.
A few days before the lunar new year celebration, on February 5, the Tien Giang procurary instituted the criminal case in which Minh was charged with extorting money under Clause 4, Article 135 of the Penal Code. Given the sum he asked from Tan Hiep Phat, Minh faces a sentence of up to twenty years of imprisonment.
During his detention, Minh was denied access to legal counsel, though a number of lawyers had offered to represent him for free.
The case, titled by netizens as “the fly that costs 500 million VND”, sparked a massive public outcry over abusive police and Tan Hiep Phat, the “deceitful company” alleged to have set up a trap for its customer.