54 charged in Covid flight bribery scandal

By Pham Du, Phan Anh   April 19, 2023 | 02:31 am PT
54 charged in Covid flight bribery scandal
People arrive at Hanoi's Noi Bai Airport following a Covid repatriation flight in 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh
A total of 54 people related to the Covid-19 repatriation flight scandal have been charged with multiple crimes, with 21 facing bribery charges that potentially carry the death sentence.

The Supreme People's Procuracy of Vietnam on Wednesday said the 54, including top government officials and businesspeople, were charged with giving bribes, brokering bribery, receiving bribes, and obtaining property by fraud and power abuse.

According to the incident, 21 people were charged with receiving bribes where the death penalty is a possible sentence. They had abused their power to receive around VND165 billion ($7 million) of bribe money in 515 different occasions.

They include former Foreign Minister To Anh Dung, who received bribes totaling to VND21.5 billion in 37 different occasions.

In April 2020, the government began repatriation flights to bring Vietnamese citizens abroad back home during the pandemic. Businesses that wanted to organize flights to bring people back had to receive approval from authorities. Applications needed to be sent to the foreign affairs ministry and they would be evaluated by several ministries.

From 2020 to 2021, authorities approved and organized over 1,000 flights, bringing over 200,000 citizens back home from 62 countries and territories. The foreign ministry in particular proposed the government approve 772 flights in total to bring citizens home.

To "smooth the process," 20 businesses and over 100 legal entities raised ticket prices and drew up costs for those who wanted to get back to return to Vietnam during the pandemic.

Prosecutors said the case was especially serious as people took advantage of the pandemic for illegal gain, causing Vietnam's reputation to be diminished.

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