Corrupt cop probed in timber smuggling case

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The country's highest prosecution agency, the Supreme People's Procuracy, has begun investigating a police officer accused of receiving US$753,000 in bribes from timber smugglers four years ago.

Nguyen Van N., an officer of the Investigation Department under the Ministry of Public Security, is said to have accepted the bribes from Duong Van Mai, kingpin of a timber smuggling gang dealing in rare species of wood across the country.

Mai had spilled the beans when he was caught red-handed smuggling in eight containers of protected timber late 2007. He told the police he had previously given VND15 billion ($723,000) and $30,000 to N. on different occasions for the latter to let him off and facilitate his illegal activities.

For instance, in August 2007, he gave VND3.2 billion to N. after the police seized three containers of smuggled wood at the ports in Ho Chi Minh City and the northern Hai Phong City, Mai claimed. The wood was later labeled as "products of no origin," letting Mai off the hook.

Mai successfully smuggled in 92 containers of timber the next time after bribing N. with VND5 billion, he told the police.

When the gang was busted in 2007, the police had said they had successfully transported a total 257 containers from southern provinces to northern provinces via HCMC and Hai Phong ports.

In January 2010, police from the Ministry of Public Security formally charged 10 members of the ring, including Mai, with "giving bribes" and "violating regulations on forest protection and exploitation."

Late last year, they asked the Supreme People's Procuracy to investigate allegations that N. had accepted bribes.

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