The Customs Department of the northern province of Ha Tinh has asked local police to seize two diplomatic cars used by two Vietnamese-Americans accused of evading paying relevant taxes on the vehicles.
The two diplomats, Dinh Duc Huy and Nancy Pham Dinh, were licensed by the Ha Tinh Customs Department in October 2004 to temporarily import two cars to Vietnam to use during the time they worked at a branch of the Hanoi-based American Vietnam Technologies Co., Ltd in the province, news website Vietnamnet reported December 24.
Under current regulations, a foreign diplomat is allowed to import a car for temporary use during their time in Vietnam without paying any taxes or fees. But when the term ends, the diplomat must take it out of Vietnam or sell it. With the latter option, they have to ensure that the next buyer pays relevant taxes.
According to the Ha Tinh People's Committee, since the end of December 2005, when Huy and Dinh's labor contracts in the province expired, the diplomats failed to take any steps to either re-export or sell the vehicles, even after customs officials requested they do so several times.
Dinh left Vietnam in July 2008 and Huy is reported to have left two years later, said the committee.
Though the two have not returned to Vietnam since, their cars' registrations are identified by Register Department in Hanoi to be active and have been being used by a series of people who have not paid the relevant taxes.
Because diplomatic cars have special license plates with the letters "NG" in red instead of the normal black, those who drive them enjoy diplomatic exemption and are not pulled over by traffic police officers.
In late August, the provincial customs department received a document from the American Vietnam Technologies Co., Ltd which asked for the right to continue using the two cars in Vietnam. The document was signed by Dinh, who is now the company's official legal representative.
According to customs, Dinh and Huy violated customs' law when they passed on the cars to other users when the cars were no longer being used for diplomatic purposes.
The government on December 20 asked the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to help it draft new regulations aimed at tightening controls over the use of diplomatic cars in Vietnam.
The latest statistics from the Road and Railway Traffic Department showed that there are currently around 540 diplomatic cars with expired registrations being used in Vietnam.
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