Deputy PM orders HCMC to get serious in mafia-protected taxis

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Deputy PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc directed Thursday the Ministry of Public Security and Ho Chi Minh City authorities to investigate and strictly punish those involved in the illegal protection of fake taxis in the southern metro.

The directive came on the heels of an avalanche of complaints from both foreign and domestic tourists who have been overcharged by fake taxis in HCMC for a long time.

Insiders have said that these taxis are protected by criminal gangs, and officials have admitted their failure in solving the problem.

Ho Huy, chairman and CEO of Mai Linh Corp, one of the most popular transportation companies in Vietnam, said many fake taxis have hired criminal gangs to protect their operations in many places in Ho Chi Minh City including the area surrounding the Ben Thanh Market.

He said drivers of major taxi firms have been threatened and assaulted by these gangs when they try to pick up passengers.

The taxi companies together with transport inspectors and police in the city have kept track of and arrested many of them, but they have appeared again the day after like "mushrooms after rains," he said.

Under a 2012 decree on transport violations, the punishment for taxis that impersonate other brands is VND2.5 million (US$120) in fines and a 30-day suspension of the driving license. Huy said this was not enough of a deterrent.  

Duong Hong Thanh, deputy director of HCMC Transport Department, told Thanh Nien that the documents on fining fake taxis which have charged customers exorbitant fares have been increasing but his department has been unable to revoke registrations because the vehicles possess no such documents.

In the cases of registered taxis faking well-known brands, he said when the registrations are revoked, the drivers just register a new car and continue their operations.

He admitted that the current fines were not strong enough to stop the violations and that these should be treated as criminal offences.

Deputy PM Phuc's directive also required authorities of Hai Phong, HCMC, and Hung Yen to take stronger measures to stop local officials from harboring crimes.

He requested Ministry of Public Security, Party Committee and People's Committee of the three localities to verify responsibilities and punish relevant institutions and/or individuals for ignoring the high-profile extortion activities and violence.

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These cases have upset residents and affected local security and social order, according to the directive published on the Public Security Ministry's website.

Results of actions taken by agencies concerned must be reported to Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung soon, he said.

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