Ho Chi Minh City authorities review appeal from man famously fined $18,000 for buying $100

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The Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee announced Monday that they are reviewing an appeal submitted by Duong Cong Kien, a man who was famously fined fined VND400 million (US$18,800) for "illegally purchasing a US$100 note" two months ago.

“We cannot tell you if [the city’s decision to fine Kien was] right or wrong. But it was the city's decision and we are certainly responsible for that,” said Vo Van Luan, the committee's spokesman.

Luan noted that the city considers all appeals to municipal agency decisions; if the office fails to reach an understanding with the petitioner, he said, both sides will obey the previous ruling.

The self-described "house keeper" of a Ho Chi Minh City gold shop appealed the enormous fine imposed against him last Thursday (June 19).

Duong Cong Kien reviews a copy of an appeal he sent to the Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre

The Binh Thanh District Police Department was widely criticized for its raid on the Hoang Mai Gold Shop.

Newspapers throughout the country recounted how cops had stormed into the shop on Bui Huu Nghia Street in Binh Thanh District at 1 p.m. on April 24, claiming they had seen a man trying to exchange a US$100 note for Vietnamese dong.

The police reportedly spent eight hours combing the seven-story house above the shop, seizing more than US$14,000 and 2,300 Thai Baht as well as a security camera and a CPU.

Police also placed evidentiary seals on 559 taels of gold on display in the shop. Police removed the seals after Nguyen Thi Thanh Mai, the shop owner, produced documents proving she'd inherited the gold from her parents.

Several days later, the police returned Mai's money and equipment after concluding that it had not widely engaged in illegal currency sales.

Mai closed her shop on May 11, saying she would suspend operation until the end of this year citing psychological trauma caused by the raid and newspaper reports quoted lawyers saying she would have a great case.
The shop owner pledged not to sue the police, after they returned her money
On June 19, Dan Tri quoted an anonymous local police source as saying that they "recently" notified Kien of their decision to fine him.
In their decision to fine him, the Binh Thanh District police accused Kien of being a salesman who engaged in an illegal currency exchange.

In his appeal, Kien claimed he never engaged in the illegal purchase of a $100 note and argued that police failed to find a single foreign currency note on his body or anywhere in his immediate vicinity during their raid.

Kien told Tuoi Tre that the $100 note police submitted as evidence of Kien's alleged illegal currency trade was one of 1,400 others that were seized from a safe during the raid.

He also stressed that the security camera police seized from the gold shop would have documented his alleged purchase of the bill, if he had in fact engaged in such a transaction.

He claims such evidence has yet to be produced and does not exist.
“The police findings are allegedly based on an administrative report written by the local police on May 19. But I have never received such a report to review or sign," Kien added.

In his appeal, Kien also complained that he never signed an employment contract with the Hoang Mai gold shop; as such, the city has no grounds under which to fine him.

At the time of the raid, the shop had been temporarily closed and he was staying there as a “house keeper,” Kien wrote.

In Vietnam, the government sporadically clamps down on the illicit trade in dollars in an effort to support the Vietnamese currency.

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