Cop arrested in central Vietnam for stealing rare wood

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People gather in a forest in the central province of Khanh Hoa to search for some rare wood last September

A fourth police officer and a local man were arrested in the central province of Khanh Hoa for suspected involvement in the stealing of rare wood worth tens of thousands of dollars last year.

Nguyen Thanh Trung, deputy chief of the Khanh Hoa detention center, is now being investigated for receiving property acquired illegally, the provincial police department announced Tuesday.

Authorities did not reveal details about the wrongdoing of Trung, who was chief of the Khanh Son District police when he was dismissed in April last year for allegedly colluding with illegal loggers to destroy local forests before being appointed to the current position two months later.

He was also disciplined by the local Party unit .

This time he is suspected of involvement with several officials who allegedly stole a quantity of calambac, a rare and expensive fragrant wood, from local people who found it in a forest in Khanh Son District last September.

On Wednesday the police also arrested Luan Van Nam, 28, for allegedly helping them.

Earlier, in April, three Khanh Son police officers were taken into custody in the case.

Last September thousands of people flocked to Gop Nga Forest to search for calambac following rumors that a man had earned tens of billions of dong (VND10 billion = US$476,000) after selling some wood he found there. Vietnam's 2012 annual per capita income was $1,555.

Khanh Son officials were dispatched to stop them.

Later the timber hunters lodged complaints with provincial agencies that some officials had taken from them 1.5 kilograms of wood that could be worth more than VND10 billion.

The officials had only allowed them into the forest on condition they gave share them half of the timber they found.

On September 29, after coming to know that the people had found some wood, the officials seized it, saying they would sell it and give them their share of the loot.

But the hunters claimed they did not keep their bargain.

Following the hunters' accusations, some of the officials had appropriated VND1 billion to their agencies.

The Khanh Hoa police are investigating.

Calambac is the dark resinous heartwood that forms in agar wood trees when they become infected with a type of mold. It fetches premium prices because it is believed to bring good luck to its owner, if not the finder, and have the capacity to cure some incurable diseases.

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