Video suggests Vietnam trade official took bribes in office

By M.Q., Thanh Nien News

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A video published on YouTube by a Vietnamese new site on Wednesday shows a senior official at the Ministry of Industry and Trade allegedly accepting kickbacks from businesspeople at her office.
The video shows various individuals walking up to her desk and handing her cash without receiving a receipt.
Some were handed stacks of 8x4 paper after handing the official the cash; others walked away empty-handed.
Radio Voice of Vietnam, which initially uploaded the video, identified the woman as Pham Thanh Huong, deputy head of the ministry’s Import Export Management Department for the northern port city of Hai Phong.
Each business registering for import or export at her office allegedly has to pay an “unofficial fee” ranging from VND50,000 to VND500.000 (US$2.36-23.61) per transaction, the paper said.
Problematic cases required fatter kickbacks, the site claimed.
There look to be other officials present in the room, but Huong took no pains to conceal the payments and even took time to count out bills.
During several of the transactions, she made no effort to look at the person handing her the money.
When a Thanh Nien reporter called Huong’s cell phone after the video was released, the person who answered immediately hung up.
Spokesman Nguyen Truong Son said the ministry hadn't been informed of the situation. Son directed questions to Phan Van Chinh, head of the Import Export Department which oversees Huong.
Chinh did not answer calls or messages left with his office by press time.
In Vietnam, the practice of giving and receiving under-the-table money is actually so common that it is not even considered bribery, but an intrinsic part of local business culture, evoking no guilt either in the giver or the taker.

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