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400 fall victim to devious driving center in Vietnam’s Central Highlands

Friday, January 18, 2019, 19:41 GMT+7
400 fall victim to devious driving center in Vietnam’s Central Highlands
Learners gather in front of the driving center in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak on January 17, 2019. Photo: Tr. Tan / Tuoi Tre

A fraudulent driving center in Vietnam’s Central Highlands that claimed to be overseen by the Ministry of Public Security has tricked more than 400 people into paying money so they would receive a driver's license regardless of their test results.

The center, located at 263A Phan Chu Trinh Street in Buon Ma Thuot City, Dak Lak Province, started its fraud in September 2018.

On Thursday, many of the victims gathered in front of the center’s headquarters, only to know that the facility had already shut down.

The victims said they read Facebook advertisements about the center, which claimed to be under the management of the University of Fire Fighting and Prevention, which is in turn managed by the Ministry of Public Security.

According to the ads, the center offered driving courses at discounted fees ranging from VND6 million (US$258) to VND10 million ($430), depending on the category of each driver's license learners are applying for.

The center also said learners would surely obtain the licenses if they attended its lessons.

A probe by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper revealed that more than 400 people have enrolled in the courses and paid the money.

However, they never had the chance to complete the lessons as the center repeatedly rescheduled the courses.

The center shuts down on January 17, 2019. Photo: Tr. Tan / Tuoi Tre
The center shut down on January 17, 2019. Photo: Tr. Tan / Tuoi Tre

Ho Viet N., 28, who paid over VND6 million for a course, said he could only finish a two-hour theory class and was unable to practice driving as the center repeatedly said there were no vehicles available.

When a car was finally available, N. said he had to share it with eight other learners.

Meanwhile, 32-year-old Nguyen Van L. was fortunate enough to complete an entire course.

L. was waiting for his driving test, which was originally scheduled for early January in Buon Ma Thuot, when the center told him that the exam was postponed and rearranged to a new location in Gia Lai Province, which is about 180 kilometers away.

The test was again moved to Hanoi, then the northern province of Ninh Binh.

“I had to travel to these localities for nothing,” L. said.

“The center’s managers promised to pay all of the travel expenses, which they never did.”

It is now impossible to contact any representative of the center via the phone numbers provided in the Facebook ads and the signboard at their building in Dak Lak.

An advertisement of the center on Facebook
An advertisement of the center on Facebook

Trinh Huu Kiem, director of the Dak Lak Department of Transport, affirmed that the center does not have a legitimate permit for operation.

There are only eight licensed driving centers across the province, Kiem added.

Phan Trong Tung, deputy director of the provincial labor department, said the department was first aware of the situation in October 2018.

In late November, the University of Fire Fighting and Prevention confirmed to the labor department that the driving center did not belong to the school, Tung continued.

The Dak Lak labor department then asked its equivalent office in Buon Ma Thuot to deal with the case.

“However, no assertive measure was taken as officials tend to be busy at the end of the [lunar] year,” Tung elaborated.

The Buon Ma Thuot labor office had to wait for action from law enforcement to find out if there was any sign of criminal violations, he added.

A representative from the Dak Lak police department confirmed on Thursday they were probing the case but refused to provide further information, until their investigation has concluded.

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