About US$77,000 recently disappeared from the desk drawer of a senior Ho Chi Minh City official, an amount that he claimed to be his modest life savings.
The lost money belonged to Dao Anh Kiet, director of the city's Department of Natural Resources and Environment.
On Monday, an official at the District 1 police force said the agency had transferred the case to the city police for further investigation.
Kiet discovered the disappearance at the office on a recent morning, news website VietNamNet quoted an unnamed source as saying without mentioning a specific date.
Kiet reportedly asked a guard to notify the local police. He claims that he lost VND1 billion ($47,120) and $30,000 in US currency. He described the amounts as his saving.
Vietnam’s GDP per capita income was $1,890 last year and the government is seeking to raise the minimum monthly wage to VND2.42-VND3.1 million ($114-146) in 2015.
Speaking to VietNamNet on the phone, Kiet asked the news site not to report the case and hesitated to talk about the lost money. This is a “personal matter," he said. "What are you asking for?” “[It’s] not much”, “the press should not cover this.”
This is not the only recent case of thieves targeting a governmental official.
Last month, four thieves were jailed for between 12 and 21 years for stealing over a hundred thousand dollars worth of property from a senior official last year.
According to the indictment, at midnight on January 1, 2013, they broke into the house of Dang Xuan Tho, director of the finance department in the Central Highlands province of Kon Tum and stole more than 2.3 kilograms of gold, jewelry, a laptop, a gaur horn and a stun gun.
The estimated worth of the haul was VND2.8 billion (around US$143,000).
Tho's wife, Tran Thi Xuan Lan, who is also a senior official at the Gia Lai Tax Department, initially tried to play down the value of his lost property by telling the local police that the thieves had stolen 150 grams of gold from the house.
The crime prompted the provincial Party unit to check Tho's yearly declaration of income and assets in order to determine the origin of the stolen property.
In another case, Dang Ngoc Tan was sentenced to seven years in jail in June of 2013 for stealing more than VND10 billion ($472,000) from several government officials in the central city of Da Nang and neighboring Quang Nam Province since 2010.
The victims included Nguyen Thanh Quang, director of the Quang Nam Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Hoang Duong Viet Anh, son of a former chairman of the Da Nang People’s Committee and Le Thi Thuy, a spokesperson and wife of the director of the central region’s electricity transmitting company.
A 2012 study by the Government Inspectorate and the World Bank found that many Vietnamese government officials earn from "unofficial" sources.
Of nearly 2,000 officials in 10 localities and five central government agencies, 79 percent were found to have other incomes on top of salaries and official bonuses like payments for attending meetings, gift money and others.
More than 82 percent of those earning extra money said it amounted to less than half their salaries, 11 percent said it was 50-100 percent of their salaries, and the rest admitted it was up to five times their salaries.
A government decree that requires officials and lawmakers to reveal their incomes and assets annually fails to plug major loopholes that enable people to get away with corruption, analysts say
Perhaps the most glaring is that the declarations of assets would not be accessible to the public online, they say.
Vietnam has made little headway in the latest corruption rankings by the Berlin-based watchdog Transparency International.
The 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index, which measures the perceived levels of public sector corruption, sees Vietnam up just seven spots to 116th out of 177 countries and territories with a score of 31/100.
In Southeast Asia, it ranks seventh behind Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia.