Trade Ministry clears official of bribe taking as central gov't opens probe

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(L-R) Vietnamese government spokesman Nguyen Van Nen and Vice Minister of Industry and Trade Do Thang Hai at a press briefing on August 28, 2014. Photo: Viet Dung/Tuoi Tre (L-R) Vietnamese government spokesman Nguyen Van Nen and Vice Minister of Industry and Trade Do Thang Hai at a press briefing on August 28, 2014. Photo: Viet Dung/Tuoi Tre

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The Ministry of Trade announced that an internal investigation had cleared an official featured in an online video accepting cash at her desk of accepting bribes.
The case, however, remains far from closed.
During a press conference on Thursday, Government Spokesman Nguyen Van Nen said Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, head of the country’s anti-corruption committee, has called for an investigation into the scandal.
The story began when Radio Voice of Vietnam posted a brief video montage of the official taking cash on its website Wednesday afternoon. 
The roughly one minute clip featured Pham Thanh Huong, deputy director of the Import - Export Management Department of the Ministry of Industry and Trade in the northern port city of Hai Phong being handed stacks of Vietnamese currency at her desk.
She never appeared to issue a receipt for any of the transactions.
Other officials appear to be present in the room, where Huong made no effort to conceal her actions.
Vice Minister of Trade Do Thang Hai told reporters that “there were no bribes.”
Hai said the ministry’s inspectors have tracked down two business representatives featured in the video.
Both claimed they were paying legitimate fees for their Certificate of Origin and not kickbacks.
Nevertheless, the ministry has suspended Huong.
“Please understand that a suspension in no way implies her guilt," Hai said. "We only did so to clarify the allegations reported in the media."
VOV alleged that each business registering for an import or export license at Huong’s office paid an “unofficial fee” ranging from VND50,000 to VND500.000 (US$2.36-23.61) per transaction.
Problematic cases required fatter kickbacks, the site alleged.
Government agencies are already investigating the ministry’s dubious recruitment process, following complaints that its civil service entrance exam are routinely fixed.
A recruitment exam held last July for the Vietnam Competition Authority drew a rash of complaints about how all of those selected were related to the department's senior officials.

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