Vietnam’s major wood trader arrested with guns, grenades

By Thai Son, Thanh Nien News

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A squadron of over 100 police officers arrested nine people outside Hanoi on Wednesday for allegedly building a violent timber monopoly using “relations."
Among the arrestees were Nguyen Ngoc Minh, director of Dai An Company, and Nguyen Thanh Hung, director of Dai Anh’ subsidiary Thanh Hung Company, and their unnamed relatives.
The joint task force searched the company's campus in Bac Ninh Province from 4 p.m. until near midnight while a phalanx of armed officers secured all entrances and exits.
At least six guns, a grenade and an untold number of bullets were seized from the site.
Dozens of forest rangers arrived to check the company's warehouses for smuggled and protected wood. Several cars were sent to the scene to cart away evidence.
The officers’ presence drew around a thousand of curious onlookers.
An officer from the Ministry of Public Security told Thanh Nien the nine arrestees were suspected of "extortion."
But the case is likely to include various charges like the illegal storage of military weapons and smuggling, the officer said.
“This is a complicated case,” he added.
Many officers participating in the bust were brought in from the narcotics division.
The ministry opened an investigation into the firm more than a year ago, following rumors among local wood traders about “scary” Dai An.
The firm was established in 2000 to trade luxury wood decorations, furniture and also to invest in the construction and property markets.
The company began wholesaling timber and soon came to dominate the entire northern market, winning various certificates of merit for “excellent” and “outstanding” business practices from the Bac Ninh authorities.
Last year, Minh personally received a similar award from the Prime Minister and a medal for good labor practices from the President.
Police now say Dai An’s “broad connections” and deep pockets discouraged other investors in the field.
A rival timber trader in the province, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, claimed he had to pay Dai An kickbacks for any wood furniture exports or major transactions at home.
Failing to do so, he said, would bring "trouble."

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