Fake helmets in a manufacturing establishment owned by a man named Tiep in Bac Ninh Province
Thousands of fake or substandard crash helmets are brought from illegal helmet-manufacturing establishments to the Hanoi market everyday, Thanh Nien has found.
A Thanh Nien group recently snuck into a warehouse of fake helmets. The warehouse actually rented two apartments in a dark alley on Truong Dinh Street.
Quynh, the owner of the warehouse, said he bought helmets from Tiep, who owns a large-scale helmet manufacturing establishment in a rural village in Bac Ninh Province, some 35 km northeast of Hanoi.
From the warehouse, helmets are distributed to retail stores across the city.
Quynh, the owner of the warehouse, showed the reporters, who posed as customers, more than 20 samples of helmets.
The cheapest helmet is priced at VND15,000 (71 U.S. cents), the most expensive VND70,000 (US$3.3). The others ranged from VND16,000 to VND30,000.
The helmets’ cover is so thin that it could be broken if one presses an arm hard on it. Quynh repeatedly asked the reporters to handle the helmets with care.
Quynh said he also owned a helmet shop on Truong Dinh Street.
Arriving in Bac Ninh, the reporters came to the helmet manufacturing factory owned by Tiep.
The process of making a helmet is quite simple, with a worker finishing four helmets in around 10 minutes.
Tiep said thousands of helmets are distributed in Hanoi and neighboring provinces each day. He has run the illegal business for two years now.
After the helmets are brought to Tiep’s warehouse, they are labeled with fake stamps, posing as the quality verification stamps of helmet manufacturers.
As the fake helmets are made from waste plastic, the costs of making them are low, giving the manufacturers big profits.
On the other hand, given the bad quality of fake helmets, they are very easily broken. Thus, the sellers also offer repair services to make money.
When asked why their warehouse and factory had operated for such a long time without being punished by local authorities, both Tiep and Quynh said they had paid bribes to market management authorities to hush up their illegal activities.
Approached by Thanh Nien, Tran Trong Luong, chief of the Market Management Bureau of Bac Ninh Province, said officers frequently inspected helmet factories in the province but they did not discover any wrongdoing.
“I will order my subordinates to check again,” he said.
Following the Thanh Nien’s exposé, on April 8, officers from the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s Market Management Department raided Tiep’s warehouse, but he was not there.
Le The Bao, chairman of the Vietnam Association for Anti-Counterfeiting and
Trademark Protection, said only 28-40 percent of helmets carrying CR (Conformity to Regulation) stamps in Vietnam meet quality standards.
Vietnamese law enforcement has not been strong enough to deter fake helmet makers, he said.
A survey by the World Health Organization found only around 46 percent of stamped crash helmets in Vietnam can protect riders' heads from shock in the case of falling off their bikes.
Vietnam's high number of traffic accidents slightly reduced in 2013.
Last year, there were 29,385 traffic accidents, killing 9,369 people and injuring about 29,500 others. In 2012, traffic accidents killed 9,424 people nationwide.
Road accidents are not new to Vietnam. Narrow highways, poorly maintained vehicles and drivers' disregard for road safety and traffic rules are often the cause of most fatalities.
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