HCMC police recommend bribery charge against sting journalist

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The Ho Chi Minh City police Wednesday (May 23) wrapped up investigations and recommended a charge of bribery against a Tuoi Tre newspaper journalist for what is claimed to be a sting operation to expose traffic police corruption.

They alleged that Nguyen Van Khuong, 39, well known by his pseudonym Hoang Khuong, bribed Huynh Minh Duc, 36, a Binh Thanh District traffic police officer who is under suspension, to get back a motorbike seized for illegal street racing.

They also recommended that the HCMC People's Procuracy should prosecute Duc for "taking bribes."

Duc was arrested last November for allegedly taking bribes to let off a traffic offender after Khuong exposed the bribery in stories published on Tuoi Tre in July.

According to the police, in April last year Binh Thanh District traffic police officers impounded the motorcycle of Tran Minh Hoa for "reckless driving" and "causing public disorder."

In June Hoa asked his friend Nguyen Duc Dong Anh, Khuong's brother-in-law and also an illegal motorbike racer, to help him get his bike back.

He gave VND15 million (US$720) which Anh then gave to Khuong.

Khuong asked a man named Ton That Hoa, who allegedly knew some police officers, to get the bike back.

Hoa was then acting as a "middleman" for Tran Anh Tuan, who had caused an accident while driving a trailer truck, trying to get the vehicle back from the police.

Hoa met Duc, the suspended cop, at a coffee shop and allegedly paid him VND3 million for releasing the truck and driver's license.

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The next day Hoa, Tuan, and Duc met at a restaurant, and Hoa called Khuong over and introduced him to the officer.

Khuong asked Duc to release the motorcycle and its papers and the latter agreed. Khuong then paid him VND15 million.

On July 3 Duc returned the bike, and two days later Khuong wrote an expose on Duc's alleged acceptance of the VND3 million bribe to illegally release Tuan's truck.

Duc then refused to return Minh Hoa's bike papers.

That Hoa repeatedly called Duc, asking him for the papers, even threatening that his corruption would be exposed in the media.

The police report says that after Duc ignored the threat Khuong ran a story on July 10 about the cop taking a bribe from a man named "Hoang" to release Minh Hoa's bike.

The police have also recommended charges of "giving bribes" against Minh Hoa, 21, Anh, 23, and Tuan, 46, and "abetting bribery" against Ton That Hoa, 57.

Last January Khuong was arrested after police concluded that That Hoa took money from Tuan and Khuong to pay Duc.

Tuoi Tre has twice asked the police to let Khuong out on bail due to his poor health condition, but in vain.

The police recently said Khuong would be held for another three months.

Tuoi Tre has rejected the police conclusions as "not persuasive."

It said it would ask them to reconsider the charge of "giving bribes" against Khuong since his action was just a "professional mistake" and not a crime.

Khuong wrote his stories at its behest at a time when many road accidents were occurring around the country, Tuoi Tre said.

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