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HCM City district police chief suspended after bizarre criminal case

By Toan Dao, Quoc ThangApril 25, 2016 | 02:58 pm PT
HCM City district police chief suspended after bizarre criminal case
The restaurant owner. Photo by Quoc Thang
Ho Chi Minh City’s police department has temporarily suspended Colonel Nguyen Van Quy, head of Binh Chanh district police, following a bizarre criminal case that led to the intervention of Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on April 21.

Quy had signed an order to undertake criminal proceedings against Nguyen Van Tan, a "pho" restaurant owner in the district, for being five days late obtaining a business registration certificate.The Supreme People's Procuracy also stepped in after carefully reviewing the case, saying Tan was not guilty of conducting business illegally. On Sunday, the People’s Procuracy of Binh Chanh said they will stop all legal proceedings against Tan. Quy's suspension will need approval from the Ministry of Public Security’s General Department of Politics.

Tan opened his restaurant in August last year. The restaurant became a regular eating place offering "pho" and drinks during breakfast and lunch.

Five days after opening, two local policemen came to check on his business registration, and Tan was given an administrative warning for “doing business without a business registration certificate”.

Despite the fact that Tan took immediate action to redeem the violation and managed to obtain the certificate just five days later, he still faced a heavy fine of up to VND17 million ($800).

The Law on Enterprise makes it an offence to run a business without a registration certificate, but the maximum fine for such an infraction should only be VND7.5 million.

Police in Binh Chanh district explained that the reason for the heavy fine was that the restaurant owner also had to pay a penalty of nearly $800 for breaking other regulations on food safety standards.

Tan was unable to pay the fine after investing all his money in the restaurant, including a huge upfront five-year lease payment. He was forced to temporarily shut the restaurant while waiting for food safety and hygiene certificates. But the local policemen kept coming back to inspect the restaurant, and issued two more fines for “having toxic insects” in the kitchen and “using below-standard water”.

Murphy’s Law, which states “things tend to go from bad to worse”, seems to be at play in this situation as local police authorities in late September decided to probe the case and bring criminal charges against the restaurant owner.

On March 11, the district prosecutor issued an indictment against Tan for “illegally doing business”.

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