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Gasoline smugglers pay Coast Guard officials $86,000 per month in bribes

By Thanh Lam   July 13, 2022 | 02:20 am PT
A smuggling ring had bribed Coast Guard officials with VND2 billion ($86,000) per month to bring gasoline from Singapore to Vietnam.

According to a verdict heard at an ongoing trial in Hanoi, Phan Thanh Huu, the leader of a ring accused of smuggling gasoline from Singapore, and his son have since September 2019 met with a series of officials and offered to pay them monthly bribes.

One of the first officials they came to was Colonel Nguyen The Anh, who was working as head of the Border Guard in the southern province of Kien Giang. Anh had known Huu for eight years by then.

Anh agreed to receive VND100 million ($4,300) per month from Huu. During the time when he was covering the operation of Huu's ring, Anh held many important positions, including deputy office chief of the National Steering Committee for Anti-smuggling, Counterfeit Goods and Trade Fraud.

Colonel Nguyen The Anh (R), who used to work as head of the Border Guard in the southern province of Kien Giang, stands trial in Hanoi for taking bribes from a gasoline smuggling ring. Photo by VnExpress

Colonel Nguyen The Anh (R), who used to work as head of the Border Guard in the southern province of Kien Giang, stands trial in Hanoi for taking bribes from a gasoline smuggling ring. Photo by VnExpress

Later, Huu struck a deal to give Major General Le Van Minh, 57, commander of the Coast Guard Zone 4, which oversees the waters in southern Vietnam, VND300-450 million per month.

Later, Huu raised the sum to VND500 million per month.

Within September 2019, Huu traveled to southern Tra Vinh Province to meet with Colonel Nguyen Van Hung, head of the Truong Long Hoa Port Border Guard, Colonel Pham Van Tren, head of Tra Vinh Border Guard, Lieutenant Colonel Le Van Phuong, deputy head of Tra Vinh’s Traffic Police Department, and Pham Ho Hai, chief representative of Can Tho Port Authority based in Tra Vinh.

Thanks to those connections, none of Huu’s ships had been inspected when entering Vietnamese waters.

Colonel Hung had even instructed subordinates to inspect Huu’s ships twice but did not take any legal measures. The inspections occurred so other functional forces in Tra Vinh would spare Huu's ships, said the verdict.

In March 2020, with his business going smoothly in southern Vietnam, Huu expanded the ring’s operation to the south-central region.

He applied the same method and approached more officials, including Major General Le Xuan Thanh, commander of Coast Guard Zone 3, and Major Luu The Duc, deputy commander of Reconnaissance 2 under the Vietnam Coast Guard.

In 18 months since Huu started operating his gasoline smuggling ring until February 2021, Huu had spent VND38 billion to bribe Coast Guard and Border Guard officials.

By the time of the trial, only VND17.8 billion had been recovered. The trial, which opened Tuesday, is expected to last three days.

Huu and 72 others in his ring were prosecuted early this month for smuggling. They were not investigated for paying bribes as they reported it before being discovered.

The ring smuggled more than 204 million liters of gasoline between March 2020 and February 2021, making hundreds of billions of Vietnamese dong in profit. Huu himself pocketed more than VND105 billion, the court heard.

Vietnam has disciplined nearly 168,000 Communist Party members in its 10-year anti-corruption campaign since 2012. High-ranking officials including ministers and military commanders, and business tycoons have been jailed.

 
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