Seven customs officials in the southern Binh Duong Province were suspended Monday after they were found receiving extra money to give businesses a smooth go.
Vo Thi Ngoc Hong, Nguyen Thi Ngoc Binh, Pham Hoang Van, Ta Nhu Xuan and Tran Quang Vinh were from the customs office of Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Park, while Nguyen Phuong Thang worked at the My Phuoc Industrial Zone, and Duong Van Tuan worked for the two zones' joint-customs office.
The suspension came after Tuoi Tre ran a story the same day about unofficial fees "lubricating" business at the offices.
Besides the fees required by law, businesses passing the custom offices would be asked for a sum of "gratitude money" from the officials, between VND50,000-100,000 (US$2.62-5.24) each visit.
A man only identified as D., who has gone to different customs offices in Binh Duong to do business for his company, said documents with mistakes will be returned while accurate ones have to pay extra money.
D. said there're different levels of payment for different documents.
"If they don't pay, the companies will have to wait for the officials to chatter, eat and help those who know the rule," he said.
Companies visiting the Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Park (VSIP) have to clip a VND50,000 or VND100,000 note to their documents if they want it to pass, Tuoi Tre found during an investigation last month.
An average of VND200,000 of "lubricant" money will be needed for a document to pass all doors at the unit. If certain piece of cargo is to be tested, it will cost more, depending on the type of goods.
On March 19, Pham Hoang Van, who checks the tax values at the Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Zone customs unit, returned a document to a company while pointing to the VND50,000 note in the document and saying "too little."
Van let another document pass after finding a VND100,000 note.
On March 22, an official named Vo Thi Ngoc Hong received a document with two VND100,000 notes inside.
Hong then asked the person who handed the document to give more or call his boss to come see her.
"Put more in here, then go out," she told the company's employee, placing a VND50,000 note attached to the document on her table.
A man sitting next to Hong, in charge of signing the documents, put the note into his pants pocket.
On March 23, official Nguyen Thi Ngoc Binh at the zone was also found withdrawing money constantly from the documents she received.
In less than three minutes, Binh gave a pass to four documents, taking four VND50,000 notes.
On March 24, Nguyen Phuong Thang, who receives import registrations at the My Phuoc Industrial Zone customs unit earned VND200,000 in five minutes from three documents.
His colleague Duong Van Tuan also earned well that same day as there was a pile of registrations 20 centimeters high on his desk.
VSIP receives more than 500 import-export documents brought by around 40 companies every day. A senior customs official at VSIP work on an average of more than 60 documents a day.