Prosecutors in line of fire for criminal charge against ‘pho’ shop owner

April 27, 2016 | 05:57 pm GMT+7

A criminal charge against the owner of a ‘pho’ noodle restaurant on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City for being five days late obtaining his business registration has been dropped, but for those responsible for bringing the charge, it isn’t over yet.

Prosecution officers Le Thanh Tong, former deputy head of Binh Chanh district’s procuracy, and Ho Van Son have been suspended and may be permanently removed from office as punishment, said the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Procuracy on Wednesday.

Le Thanh Tong was said to have signed the indictment against 50-year-old Nguyen Van Tan for “illegally doing business without a license”.

Nguyen Van Tan opened the restaurant in August last year offering the main dish ‘pho’ and drinks during breakfast and lunch. Eight months later, he was faced with a criminal charge of “doing business illegally” after district police checked on his business several times and accused him of “doing business without a registration certificate” as well as “breaking regulations” on food safety and hygiene standards.

The district prosecutor issued an indictment against Tan on March 11.

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"Xin Chao" is directly opposite Binh Chanh district's police station. Photo by Quoc Thang

However, the Chief Procurator of the Supreme People’s Procuracy Nguyen Minh Tri said last Friday in a meeting with the prosecutors that the restaurant owner had not violated Article 159 of the Criminal Code, which punishes individuals for doing business without a registration certificate.

Tri’s decision put an end to the case against Tan, which has provoked public concern and criticism of the justice system and even prompted intervention from Prime Minister Phuc.

“I did not [sign the indictment against Tan] for personal reasons. It’s difficult to never make a mistake. I will take responsibility for the mistake that I have made. No matter what the punishment is, I think the disciplinary committee will carefully look into the case before making a decision,” Tong told VnExpress.

Previously, secretary of the city's Party Committee Dinh La Thang, in an attempt to regain the public’s trust, stressed that if the local authorities had been wrong to bring a criminal charge against the restaurant owner, they would face severe punishment.

The 2013 Constitution clearly states that the State allows people to do business in areas that are not prohibited. The crime of “illegally doing business” will no longer be criminalized when the newly revised penal code comes into effect in July 2016.