Vietnam police seize 13 luxury cars with dubious origins

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Some of 13 luxury cars confiscated by police in District 7, Ho Chi Minh City, due to their dubious origins / PHOTO COURTESY OF VNEXPRESS

Ho Chi Minh City police are holding 13 luxury cars formerly owned by diplomats in Vietnam with fake or dubious license plates and documents, VnExpress online newspaper reported on Friday.

All the cars were seized in District 7's Phu My Hung, one of Vietnam's most advanced urban areas, starting at the end of last year, with the latest seizure coming on Thursday.

The cars, makes such as Bentley, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche, were estimated to be worth as much as VND10 billion (US$473,000) each.

Dan Tri online newspaper quoted police as saying that they confiscated the cars after their alleged owners either failed to present documentation of their origins, or the documents were unclear.

It said police summoned those involved for questioning, adding that most of them are rich businesspeople or celebrities.

Senior Lieutenant-Colonel Doan Van Nam, chief of District 7's economic police division, told VnExpress that six of the cars carried diplomatic license plates, while three others had fake documents and license plates. The rest had unclear origins.

Nam said initial findings showed that all the cars had been imported by diplomats at foreign embassies and used for three years. When their terms of office ended, the diplomats sold the cars to local people.

Under Vietnamese law, imported diplomatic cars are tax exempt, but when they are resold to local people, the purchaser must pay the waivered taxes and complete title transfer procedures before using them.

However, many of the new owners have refused to pay the taxes, and furthermore, have faked documents and license plates, Nam was quoted as saying.

He said it would take time to clarify the origins of the cars, because they have to turn to related embassies and work with them through the Ministry of Public Security's Traffic Police Department and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Directorate of State Protocol.

In the meantime, cars with diplomatic plates have been sent to the traffic police; and their owners will have to pay relevant fees before in order to retrieve them, according to Nam.

For those operating vehicles with fake license plates and documents, police intend to press criminal charges.

According to the Ministry of Public Security, some 4,000 cars with diplomatic plates were registered between 1998 and 2009, and thousands were illegally transferred to locals to evade taxes.

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In an attempt to crack down on illegal transfers of diplomatic cars, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung last September signed a decision that allows foreign diplomats to trade in their cars only after two years' use for agency-owned cars, and after one year for those individually owned.

Cars used for more than five years are not allowed to be resold. They have to be condemned or re-exported.

In 2012, Phu Tho became the first Vietnamese province to seize and auction cars that had been sold to Vietnamese by foreign diplomats without proper transfers.

Last month police in the central city of Da Nang also confiscated seven luxury cars with expired diplomatic plates.

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