A group of local men have been demanding real estate businesses pay “protection money” in a town in the south-central Vietnamese province of Khanh Hoa, which has been planned to become a special economic zone.
Van Gia Town in Van Ninh District, Khanh Hoa Province, has become a real estate hotspot after local authorities revealed a plan to turn the place into the Bac Van Phong special economic zone.
Many people specializing in the realty sector have come to the locality to trade local land plots.
However, many of them have reported being forced to pay “protection money” for a group of local men in order to carry out their business without trouble.
According to N.V.T., who came here from the southern province of Binh Duong to open her company, three men arrived at her firm at around 7:00 pm on May 7, claiming to be local residents.
They required T. to pay VND20 million (US$880) a month for a trouble-free business.
As T. turned them down, a group of nearly 10 tattooed men returned to her company the following morning and sat in front of the facility, forcing the businesswoman to phone police officers.
L.T.H., who hails from the north-central province of Quang Binh, recalled being in the same situation.
When H. said he was experiencing some financial challenges, the men allowed him to pay VND5 million ($220) every ten days.
Even a local businessman like L.V.T. was also intimidated by the thugs.
“They threatened to harm me and my family if I did not pay the money. I was hesitant to call the police at first but later changed my mind after knowing that many other companies were also victimized,” T. said.
|Two men arrive at a company to demand “protection money” in this screenshot taken from the firm’s CCTV.|
Senior Lieutenant Colonel Le Van Tin, chief of police in Van Ninh District, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Friday that officers were working with the victims to assist their investigation.
Initial information showed that the men come from Van Gia Town and some nearby localities.
“About five members of the gang are ex-convicts. We have summoned them to the police station for further probing,” Sen. Lt. Col. Tin stated.
The situation has only happened over the past month, the police official said, adding that competent agencies had convened a meeting with 27 businesses in Van Gia Town to inform them of the incident.
A hotline was open for companies to report any specific case. They were also recommended to install security cameras for better supervision.
According to Nguyen Cong Bang, chairman of the administration in Van Gia, such extortion is unprecedented in the town.
The thugs started their illicit operation after noticing that real estate has become lucrative due to a hike in land value.
Bang advised businesses to complete their registration and necessary legal procedures regarding their operations and maintain regular contact with local authorities.