Tran Thanh Thanh, a Vietnamese employee with the British Virgin Islands-headquartered K.S.T International Holdings Ltd, at the company's unfinished factory in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre
An investor from the British Virgin Islands has filed a complaint against ho Chi Minh City officials for mishandling its investment license and soliciting bribes, local media reported.
K.S.T International Holdings Ltd., which is seeking a license to open a business to import electric equipment, said it has been misled by the city's Department of Planning and Investment on several occasions over the past few months.
Tuoi Tre newspaper on Monday quoted Peng Jung Ming, a representative of the company, as saying that the application for an investment license was filed by a Vietnamese employee in July.
Soon later the department rejected it, saying the company was registered in the British Virgin Islands, which is not a member of the World Trade Organization. The Vietnamese employee, Tran Thanh Thanh, was asked to pay so-called "service fees" to secure an approval, the newspaper reported.
Then on August 24, when Peng accompanied Thanh to the department's office, they were told that the application was sufficient and that they could start preparing to apply for a business license.
Peng said his company then spent more than VND1 billion ($44,800) leasing an office and recruiting employees.
However, on September 7, when he came to receive the investment license, he was informed that the application had been rejected.
Tuoi Tre reported that on September 28 Thanh met with Lai Thi Kim Khanh, vice director of its investment consultancy center.
Khanh allegedly told Thanh that the application could be reconsidered as long as the company was willing to pay a fee.
On October 2, Khanh told Thanh to re-submit the application and give her $15,000 in cash so she could fly to Hanoi to meet with officials of the Ministry of Planning and Investment, Tuoi Tre reported.
She allegedly promised to return the money, excluding travel expenses, if she somehow failed to receive a license for the company.
According to Tuoi Tre, Khanh also asked Thanh to "deal with" relevant officials in Ho Chi Minh City on his own.
Tuoi Tre said the city's government has ordered relevant agencies to handle the complaint.
Speaking to Tuoi Tre, Nguyen Van Hau, vice chairman of Ho Chi Minh City Lawyers Association, said if the allegation of bribe solicitation is true, Khanh may face criminally charges.
Hau added that many local lawyers have been asked to pay money when submitting investment license applications on behalf of their clients.