Two firefighting policemen in Ho Chi Minh City have been found going corrupt as they threatened a local company to spend money making a fire prevention document that is compulsory and to give them “tips” in return for their safety check.
They have been identified as Le Thanh Binh and Nguyen Huy Khang from the Firefighting Police Department of Binh Tan District, according to a recent Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper investigation.
They were discovered using threats to demand VND3 million (US$133) from a firm for having its obligatory fire prevention document prepared and approved, and extorting VND1 million ($44) as fees to periodically train the company’s staff in fire prevention.
In Vietnam, each company and state agency is required to prepare their own fire prevention document every year to submit to local firefighting police departments and to provide training for their staffers in terms of fire safety.
Any of the entities failing to fulfill one of the two requirements will be fined by the firefighting police with pecuniary penalties reaching over VND10 million ($444) each case.
T., the owner of a company, said his firm has ten employees and began operating in Binh Tan District in early 2014.
By the end of the year, firefighter Binh had come to inspect the fire prevention work at his company.
“Binh told me that the fire prevention document for 2014 was about to expire and asked me to prepare a new profile for the following year,” T. recounted.
“He added that it would cost a certain amount of money as there had been some changes to the document as per the latest regulations.
“So he requested me to give a ‘tip’ of VND500,000 [$22] to each of the two firefighters to provide guidance at my company and another sum of VND2 million [$90] in financial support for his agency.”
On November 9, T. phoned Binh to re-check the price and the latter confirmed, “I need VND3 million. Your document has already been approved and what you have to do is just come here to sign it so as to make it valid.”
T. made an excuse that he was short of money and Binh replied, “It’s all done! Stop whining!”
On November 18, Binh gave T. a call and informed him that he had been required to join a training course and another firefighter named Khang would take over from him.
“You can ask your staff to pay the cost to Khang,” Binh told T.
When T. asked to delay it till the end of this year, Binh shouted at him, “Why at the end of this year? Your fire prevention will be inspected very soon and if you fail to meet all requirements, you will be fined VND7 million [$311].”
“You should have been fined when I contacted you the first time,” he added.
“You can pay it to Khang now. I don’t want to repeat this anymore. Are we all clear?”
When T. said he had no money then, Binh almost went nuts and shouted, “I’m telling you, your document is nothing and we can scrap it anytime. Don’t you ever think that we need your bucks. We don’t like to play the tug of war game with you!”
Pausing for a while, Binh threatened, “The last quarter of the year ends on November 15. They will check your document and you will be fined.
“I’ve called you four times. I’d throw away your document.”
On November 25, Binh and Khang came to T.’s company to carry out a check on its fire prevention.
Talking about training for the staff in fire prevention and fighting, Binh said, “It’s gonna cost much. We’ll need to deploy six units and you have to pay each of them two [VND2 million or $90].”
Binh added that training and practice were both compulsory at any company.
“You pay a ‘tip’ of VND500,000 [$22] to each of the two firefighters providing the training at your company,” he insisted.
“And you should support the firefighting police unit with VND2 million [$90].
“The document for fire prevention is VND3 million.”
Hesitant for a while, T. decided not to pay the expenses and Binh pulled out a document from his bag and threatened, “Now, I fine you VND11.5 million [$511] for failing to present the required documents for fire prevention.”
In a later interview with Tuoi Tre about his demand for money, Binh admitted, “It was my mistake.”
Mentioning the “tips,” Binh confessed, “My bad to demand them from him.
“Such ‘tips’ are not compulsory.
“But fire safety training at companies needs the participation of officials from different firefighting units and businesspeople know that they should give a ‘tip.’
“It’s called coffee money.”