Authorities in the northern province of Phu Tho have auctioned seven cars that had been transferred illegally to Vietnamese by foreign diplomats, raising a total of VND9.6 billion (US$459,000).
The cars, imported into Vietnam for the diplomats' use, had been sold to locals and been used for many years without the two parties completing necessary procedures or paying the stipulated taxes and fees, Senior Lieutenant Colonel Pham Khac Hoat, Phu Tho's chief economic crimes investigator, said.
Since April this year the Phu Tho police have seized 25 such cars. They are verifying other such vehicles, and carrying out procedures to confiscate and auction some of them.
Phu Tho's action is possibly the first of its kind in Vietnam, where the Ministry of Finance has said around 1,200 diplomatic cars are being used illegally by Vietnamese.
The country's regulations allow a foreign diplomat to import a car for use during their term without paying any taxes or fees.
When the person's term ends, they have to take it out of Vietnam or sell it locally after either paying all the relevant taxes or ensuring the buyer does so.
But many diplomats have done neither, instead merely signing a contract authorizing the Vietnamese buyer to sell the car and pay relevant taxes and fees, Hoat had told Thanh Nien earlier.
But the buyers then keep using the car without paying any duty, he said
It is not yet clear how Phu Tho authorities seized the diplomats' cars without getting waiver of diplomatic immunity from their respective governments.
Ironically, since diplomatic cars have a special license plate with the letters "NG" in red, the buyers used to enjoy diplomatic "immunity" from police officers.
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