Vietnamese man fights confiscation of massive gemstone

By Phuoc Tuan, Khanh Huong   September 15, 2016 | 10:01 am GMT+7
Vietnamese man fights confiscation of massive gemstone
Bao Lam District's authorities is keeping the 20-ton boulder for inspection. Photo by VnExpress/Khanh Huong

The 20-ton boulder, believed to be worth billions of dong (over $45 thousand), was discovered last month in the Central Highlands.

Authorities in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong has confiscated an apparent gemstone weighing 20 tons from a man who has spent about $15,000 to become its owner.

The 4-meter-long, 2-meter-wide boulder was found last month in a café’s garden in Bao Lam District.

Pham Van Chinh, a local resident, later bought it for VND100 million ($4,480). He then splurged another VND250 million ($11,200) to have the massive stone dug up.

Soon later district authorities came in and confiscated it, on grounds that any discovery of valuable natural resources must be reported to the government.

Chinh did not inform local officials of the case.

Trinh Van Thao, chairman of Bao Lam District, confirmed that the boulder is “temporarily held” by his office, pending results from an inspection.

“Once the origin, quality and value of the boulder have been determined, we will handle the case strictly according to the law,” Thao said.

Rare gem experts in Lam Dong believe it is chalcedony, a semi-precious type of gemstone which has many beautiful colors and is often used in making jewelry, decorations and making statues. They say the 20-ton stone could be worth billions of dong.

vietnamese-man-fights-confiscation-of-massive-gemstone

The boulder which has recently been discovered in the Central Highlands. Photo by VnExpress/Khanh Huong

In Vietnam, debates over entitlement to valuable discoveries are not rare.

Generally natural resources are under state ownership. Finders of high-value objects are only eligible for a certain reward, not all of the monetary worth.

Nguyen Van Hau, vice president of HCMC Lawyers Association, said the temporary confiscation of the boulder found in Lam Dong is lawful.

“People who discover mineral resources named in a state-regulated list must promptly notify local authorities,” Hau said. “Then based on the conclusion of experts, those who have made the discovery will be rewarded accordingly,” said Hau.

Chinh, for one, does not think it is fair to have the stone taken away from him, considering all the money he has spent.

“I intended to buy the stone to decorate my house, without knowing that I must report to the authorities. After the confiscation, I have made a formal request to pay taxes to get it back,” said Chinh.

“I haven’t got any response,” he said.

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