Vietnam trade official suspended after suspected bribe-taking video goes viral

Thanh Nien News

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The Ministry of Industry and Trade has suspended an import and export management official pending further investigations after a video caught her taking cash from various people at her office.
Pham Thanh Huong, deputy director of the ministry’s Import - Export Management Department in the northern port city of Hai Phong, has also been ordered to account for her role in the video which has gone viral on YouTube, Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reported.
Radio Voice of Vietnam posted the more than one minute video on its news website Wednesday afternoon, featuring Huong in her office.
The video showed various individuals coming to her desk giving stacks of cash without receiving a receipt.
Some were handed stacks of paper after handing the official the cash; others walked away empty-handed.
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.
VOV said each business registering for import or export at the office allegedly has to pay an “unofficial fee” ranging from VND50,000 to VND500,000 (US$2.36-23.61) per transaction.
Problematic cases required fatter kickbacks, the site said.
Vice minister of trade and industry Tran Tuan Anh told Tuoi Tre that he was informed of the video soon after it went viral.
“The ministry will deal with the situation seriously,” Anh said.
Inspects from the ministry and the import, export department have been asked to look into the case.
When a Thanh Nien reporter called Huong’s cell phone after the video was released, the person who answered immediately hung up.
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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