Dak Nong police have proposed hefty fines against a farmer and his neighbor for attempting to sell a massive semi-precious gemstone found in his coffee farm in February.
Nguyen Chi Thanh and his neighbor Truong Quoc Hao should be fined VND550 million (US$25,540) each for excavating and transporting the 30-metric-ton raw gemstone, according to a statement police have sent to the provincial government.
They also proposed bringing the semi-precious gemstone, identified as chalcedony, to the Dak Nong Museum for display.
Earlier on February 10, Nguyen Chi Thanh reportedly discovered a large block of chalcedony while digging a lake at his coffee farm in the Central Highlands province.
The block, weighing about 30 tons, is believed to be the largest of its kind ever found in Dak Nong.
Thanh, assuming that he had the ownership to the stone, decided to sold it for VND70 million to Hao, who then paid for the excavation and transport despite an explicit order from local authorities asking them to wait for a final decision.
Police seized the gemstone on February 11 when it was being transported to the nearby Dak Lak Province for sale.
Local officials have reported about similar gemstone discoveries in the Central Highlands province.
The proposed measure against Thanh and Hao has prompted controversies as people question on benefits and legal issues when finding valuable objects in their land.
According to lawyer Nguyen Van Hau, people should immediately inform local authorities about such discoveries.
Finders of high-value objects are eligible for an amount equal to 10 months of basic salary (currently VND2.15-3.1 million) and half of the exceeding value, while the rest belongs to the state, he said.
Under Vietnamese law, only the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is authorized to license the exploitation of minerals.
No license to exploit semi-precious stones has been issued in Dak Nong Province so far, according to the provincial administration.