Prosecutors in the south central province of Phu Yen have pressed bribery charges against four people including two policemen for illegally importing 12 cars without paying more than US$580,000 in taxes.
The indictment said Le Van Loi, a suspended commune police chief, and Nguyen Van Cong, a suspended deputy commune police chief in Phu Hoa District, received bribes from Vietnamese American Vo Van Duc and his brother-in-law Nguyen Van Dong. The brothers allegedly helped smuggle cars into Vietnam for a person identified only as Ha in Ho Chi Minh City.
Duc allegedly met Ha in May 2012 and was told to capitalize on loopholes in government policies that allow returning Viet Kieu (overseas Vietnamese) to import personal vehicles without paying a host of duties and taxes. Duc was promised a VND15 million ($708) kickback for each car he successfully smuggled into the country.
Viet kieu are defined as Vietnamese people holding a valid foreign passports or papers of equal value.
Investigators found that the bribe-taking cops had forged documents to help the Viet kieu smuggle the cars.
Duc helped import seven cars as the assets of seven Viet kieu by paying Loi, one of the two disgraced cops, VND5 million for each vehicle.
His job was to enter their names into local books to give them permanent residency status--a pre-requisite to the tariff exemption.
Dong allegedly paid Cong VND3 million each in five similar cases.
Prosecutors say the scam, which occurred between August and October 2012, caused a loss of more than VND12.4 billion ($585,160) to the state budget.
Vietnam now imposes import tariffs of up 80 percent on foreign cars and is set to cut that on cars originating in countries of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to 50 percent this year. Foreign cars are also subject to special consumption and value-added taxes.
Last April, the country made an effort to prevent Viet Kieu car-smuggling by limiting returning expatriated Vietnamese to one duty-free car that needs to be registered for at least six months with at least 10,000 kilometers accumulated overseas.
Official statistics showed a significant surge in the number of vehicles imported to Vietnam as Viet Kieu assets in 2012 and 2013.