Deputy foreign minister received bribes worth $916,000 in repatriation flight scandal: police

By Pham Du   April 4, 2023 | 12:59 am PT
Deputy foreign minister received bribes worth $916,000 in repatriation flight scandal: police
Former deputy minister of foreign affairs To Anh Dung. Photo courtesy of Baoquocte
Former deputy foreign minister To Anh Dung was accused of receiving bribes worth VND21.5 billion ($916,044) in 37 different occasions relating to the Covid-19 repatriation flight scandal.

Investigators from the Ministry of Public Security on Monday pressed for Dung to be charged with receiving bribes. Others facing the same charge include Nguyen Quang Linh, former assistant of former deputy prime minister Pham Binh Minh, and Nguyen Thi Huong Lan, former head of the consular department under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Dung, as the deputy foreign minister at the time, was in charge of approving the organization of Covid-19 repatriation flights. From April 2020 to January 2022, the consular department proposed to the government to approve 772 flights to bring Vietnamese citizens abroad back to Vietnam.

From May 2020 to January 2022, 13 individuals, representing certain businesses, tried to make contact with Dung to have certain procedures done. During their first meeting, Dung agreed with these 13 individuals on providing support and instructing his subordinates at the consular department to go through with procedures for the flights, investigation found.

While the parties did not make any explicit deals, both Dung and the individuals understood there would be "thank you" money afterwards, it found.

Specifically, Dung met Hoang Dieu Mo, general director of the An Binh Air Services and Tourism Trading Company (ABTRIP) in May 2020, where he introduced Mo's company to Vietnam Airlines to organize combo flights.

From December 2020 to January 2022, Dung received bribes from Mo eight times, totaling to VND8.5 billion. He also received bribes 29 times from other businesses at multiple locations, including his office, his home and coffee shops.

The investigation concluded that Dung, who was arrested in April, received bribes 37 times, totaling to VND21.5 billion.

Nguyen Thi Huong Lan, as Dung’s subordinate, was in charge of organizing combo flights for businesses. However, Lan also directly contacted with business representatives to handle organization procedures, which does not fall under her responsibilities, authorities said.

Authorities accused that personnel at the foreign ministry formed "interest groups" and gave several demands to businesses. Lan specifically only chose to work with businesses that have already been assigned by her higher-ups, or businesses where she was requested to cooperate with by acquaintances, or businesses which promised her money.

The investigation concluded that Lan deeply interfered with the organization of combo flights for businesses.

From May 2020 to January 2022, eight people representing several businesses came to Lan to bribe her into approving flights quickly. Lan was accused to have received bribes 33 times, totaling to over VND25 billion.

Also in relation to the case, former deputy director of the Hanoi police Nguyen Anh Tuan was accused of receiving over VND61 billion worth of bribes to help two businesspeople from being punished by the law regarding the case.

Tuan and 53 others were recommended with several charges, including giving bribes, receiving bribes, brokering bribery, obtaining property by fraud and power abuse, by the police on Monday. Tuan in particular was recommended to be charged with brokering bribery.

From January 2022 to December 2022, Tuan received $2.65 million from Nguyen Thi Thanh Hang, general director of the Blue Sky Trading, Services and Tourism company and the Travel Sky company, then met with and gave money to Hoang Van Hung, former head of the investigative division under the Ministry of Public Security so that Hang and Le Hong Son, former general director of the Blue Sky Trading, Services and Tourism company, would not be prosecuted.

Tuan said he used $400,000 and gave $2.25 million to Hung. But the police said there were only enough evidence to prove that Hung received $800,000 from November to December 2022.

During the investigation, Tuan cooperated with authorities, and his family paid back $400,000 in March.

Tuan has spent several years working at the Hanoi police department.

After the Covid outbreak began, Vietnam organized more than 1,000 flights to bring home citizens, according to the Ministry of Public Security.

Many travel companies allegedly bribed officials to get sanction to organize those flights and sold stranded people very expensive tickets.

Each flight fetched profits of several billion dong (VND1 billion = $42,580), according to the ministry.

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