3 customs officers suspended in Vietnam in Italian luxury goods tax scam

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The Ho Chi Minh City customs department has suspended three officers to investigate if they colluded with an importer to pass of a consignment of Italian luxury goods as cheap Chinese knockoffs to evade tax.

Tran Ma Thong, deputy chief of the department, told Thanh Nien Friday that Vo Van Khanh, Nguyen Van Sang, and Nguyen Buu Quy, all working for the customs' Saigon Port division, had to review the procedures they carried out for clearing the consignment imported by HCMC-based Nam De Company.

On November 27 the city police caught four trucks carrying cartons containing clothes, handbags, and footwear made by famous brands like Gucci and Dolce&Gabbana to the warehouse of Gucci and Milano stores.

They had been imported by Nam De Company from Hong Kong, and declared to be of Chinese origin and worth US$1.8-7 each.

"The officials did not fulfill their responsibility, but what their wrongdoings are will have to wait for the police's investigation," Thong said.

Meanwhile, the police have identified three people related to the import at Nam De, including director Nguyen Thanh Binh, 42, but been unable to contact them.

The owners of the two fashion stores, located at 88 Dong Khoi, District 1, have also been out of reach, despite the police's repeated phone calls and summons.

As a result, the police have sealed the shops and seized the trucks that delivered the consignment, and are waiting to check the items in the presence of the owners.

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Thanh Nien found out that the stores are registered for business in the name of Vo Thi Ngoc Phuong, but their real owners are two Vietnamese-Americans. They are allegedly run by Milano Vietnam Company.

In Hanoi the market management agency Friday checked the Gucci Milano store operated by Milano Vietnam.

Hoang Dai Nghia, an official with the agency, told Thanh Nien that they have confiscated all the items that the store representative failed to produce documents for.

The investigation is continuing.

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