Five Vietnamese Americans fined for car import fraud

By Hai Duyen   June 5, 2019 | 02:01 am PT
Five Vietnamese Americans fined for car import fraud
Five Vietnamese Americans and the policemen involve in a car smuggling ring from the U.S. to Vietnam stand trial in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Hai Duyen.
Corrupt cops helped a group of overseas Vietnamese smuggle 17 autos from the U.S., evading $1 million in taxes.

A Ho Chi Minh City court on Tuesday sentenced Bui Le Viet Khoi, 36, former sales manager at the auto division of city-based Duong Dong – Sai Gon Joint Stock Company, to three years and seven months in jail for smuggling cars into the country.

His accomplices, five Vietnamese Americans, Dau Ngoc To, Han Quang An, Vo Thi Huyen Trinh, Nguyen Duc Thang and Nguyen Minh Hieu, were fined VND300 million ($12,800) each.

The leaders of the smuggling ring, who have been identified as Helena Pham, Mai Thi Ai and Nguyen Nhat Linh, all Vietnamese Americans, are absconding.

Police are searching for them and planning to take them to court later.

As Vietnam allows a Vietnamese American to bring along one used auto without having to pay any import tax when returning to Vietnam, Helena Pham got Khoi, who she met while he was studying in the U.S., to hire Vietnamese Americans to run her auto smuggling ring.

Khoi had the police in Vietnam forge a series of papers, including fake documents for the Vietnamese Americans to return and stay in Vietnam, fake import declarations and fake auto registration papers so that he could sell them in Vietnam.

Four former policemen in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong, who were accomplices in the scheme, got jail terms for forgery.

Nguyen Tien Dung, 57, Le Dinh Truong, 58, Dinh Van Hong, 50, and Nguyen Gia Thu, 48, former commune police chiefs, received terms of six months probation to three years in prison each.

The ring successfully sent 17 autos, including luxury brands like Land Rover, Lexus, Audi and BMW worth a total VND51.2 billion ($2.2 million) from the U.S. to Vietnam, dodging around VND22 billion ($940,000) in taxes.

Helena Pham and Khoi were directly involved in bringing 14 autos worth VND43 billion to Vietnam while Mai Thi Ai and Nguyen Nhat Linh smuggled the other three worth VND8.2 billion.

During the investigation process, Khoi surrendered VND1 billion earned from his illegal activities.

The judges said the five overseas Vietnamese did not know Vietnamese laws well, were yet to earn any benefit from the smuggling business and only followed others’ guidance. Thus they were let off with fines and no jail terms.  

Ho Chi Minh City police have said that this ring also forged papers for overseas Vietnamese to return and stay in Long An, Ben Tre and Dong Thap provinces in the Mekong Delta. They are expanding the investigation into this case.

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