Hanoi -

Two government officials in the Mekong Delta were jailed for high-stakes gambling on Chinese chess, local media reported on Tuesday.

A court in Soc Trang province sentenced Nguyen Thanh Leo, former deputy director of the Transport Department in Soc Trang province to five years in jail for gambling, Viet Nam News reported.

A former deputy chairman of the city's Inspection Committee was given a four-year term.

In December, police caught Leo playing chess for stakes of up to 240 000 dollars per game with Tran Van Tan, former director of a government-run driving school in the province. Leo owed Tan nearly 1 million dollars in gambling debts, they said.

Tan was sentenced to 17 years in jail for gambling and extorting assets from gamblers who were unable to repay their debts in cash. He also hired two men to intimidate Leo into paying his debts.

Gambling is illegal in Vietnam apart from at a small number of licensed casinos, which only foreigners are allowed to use.

Chinese chess, or co tuong in Vietnamese, is a variation of the Western board game, popular across China and Vietnam, where opponents move their pieces along lines marked on a board. - Sapa-dpa