3 Vietnam customs officials held for taking bribes of over $24,000

Three customs officers in Ho Chi Minh City and a southern province have been arrested for taking VND514 million (US$24,200) in bribes from smugglers

An offender is seen handcuffed in this photo illustration.

Three customs officers in Ho Chi Minh City and a southern province have been arrested for taking VND514 million (US$24,200) in bribes from smugglers.

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Two local customs officers and another officer in the southern province of An Giang were arrested on Wednesday for taking VND514 million (US$24,200) in bribes from smugglers.They are Nguyen Tien Loc, 52, a goods inspector at the Customs Sub-department at Saigon Port; Le Ha, 56, an officer at the sub-department; and Nguyen Thanh Lam, 45, a customs officer at the Tinh Bien Border gate in An Giang.

They were found receiving bribes from a smuggling group that, with the help of these officers, appropriated hundreds of billions of dong (VND1 billion = $47,000) worth of value added tax (VAT) reimbursement, Ho Chi Minh City police said.

In relation to the case, police in HCM City also arrested Huynh Dung Tan, 52, former head of shop 36 (now the Binh Dong Branch) of the Saigon Industrial Foodstuffs Joint Stock Company, for appropriating property by swindling and giving bribes.

These four defendants have been found involved in a transnational smuggling ring to appropriate the VAT refund.

The ring set up companies abroad and these companies tried to sign bogus contracts with Vietnam-based exporters to form false files of exported goods that were eligible for VAT reimbursement.

For example, Saigon Industrial Foodstuffs Joint Stock Company showed on its customs declaration that it exported Caravel “A” cigarettes, but in fact the exported goods were rice husks and vermicelli, investigators said. 

Using similar methods, from February 2011 to November 2012, Saigon Industrial Foodstuffs Joint Stock Company signed 69 false contracts nominally worth over VND890 billion ($41.91 million), and the amount of VAT refunded for these contracts was VND80 billion ($3.76 million).

In the same period, the company also signed 17 bogus contracts to export goods worth VND716.5 billion ($33.74 million), to two companies in Cambodia.

The company then submitted five false files of exported goods to the HCM City Tax Department to get VND92.6 billion ($4.36 million) worth of VAT reimbursement.

The fraud was carried out successfully with the help of the above three customs officers, who carried out steps for the exported goods to clear customs.

In return, these officers received at least VND514 million from the smuggling company, investigators said.

Police are expanding their investigation into the case to track down others involved.  

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