After months of investigation, the Public Security Ministry has laid charges of taking bribes on two former traffic policemen in Thanh Hoa Province who demanded money from a traffic offender last year. This bribery case had been uncovered in an article published by Tuoi Tre.
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Former Major Le Hong Duan, 37, and former lieutenant Nguyen Thanh Hai, 27, have been found guilty of receiving a bribe of VND5 million (US$263) on August 1, 2011 from the owner of an overloaded truck carrying wood in Thanh Hoa’s Tinh Gia District.
Duan was the former head of traffic police team 5 at a local police station, while Hai was a team member. They demanded that Ho Tan Phuong, the truck’s owner, pay them VND5 million in exchange for them ignorning the violation (overloading) that took place the day before, July 31.
After four months of detention Hai was released on bail last month.
The police also confirmed that Nguyen Van Doi, a resident of the area near the station, lent the amount to Phuong, on mortgage of his vehicle papers, so that he could bribe the two officers.
Doi charged Phuong an extremely high interest rate of VND500,000 ($24) per day, and Phuong had to pay the interest to him.
The bribery was exposed in an investigative article published in Tuoi Tre’s Vietnamese-language daily newspaper in early September 2011.
The exposé article was later published in English with the title “Cops blatantly take bribes, threaten drivers” on TuoiTreNews (tuoitrenews.vn) on September 6, 2011.
The article’s author is journalist Hoang Khuong, 37, who had accompanied the truck to collect information and evidence for the article, and the recording tapes and photographs taken by Khuong have been confirmed by police as proof for the case.
Journalist Hoang Khuong, whose real name is Nguyen Van Khuong (Photo: Tuoi Tre)
No prosecution for bribe givers
The ministry’s investigation agency police said that the acts of Phuong (the truck’s owner) and Nguyen Xuan Tinh, the truck’s driver, in the case have constituted the charges of “giving bribes”, according to Article 289 of the Criminal Code.
However, proceeding agencies have decided to exempt them from prosecution for their offenses since they had reported the officers’ corruption to police and actively cooperated with investigators in clarifying the bribery case, the agency said.
Such an exemption will help encourage those who have given bribes to cooperate with investigation agencies to clarify, prevent and drive back corruption, investigators said.
Lawyer Ngo Chi Dan, at the Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province Bar Association, commented that the exemption is in accordance with Item 6 of Article 289 of the Criminal Code and will encourage citizens to be more active in reporting corruption cases.
Dan also said the author of the exposé article, Hoang Khuong, should be credited for his discovery of the bribery.
Valid evidence collected by Khuong in the case has helped investigators in proving corrupt acts by police officers, Dan said, adding that with such proof, Khuong can be considered as a witness in the case.
Anti-corruption reporter faces prosecution
As previously reported, Hoang Khuong has been detained since February 2, 2012 for allegedly giving a bribe to Hoang Minh Duc, who was a traffic police officer in Binh Thanh District, in June 2011.
Last month police concluded that Khuong had “actively suggested the bribery” and handed VND15 million (US$713) to Ton That Hoa, an intermediary, so that Hoa could give it to
Duc, 37, who is in police custody pending trial.
“Khuong’s acts were for his personal interest and beyond the scope of necessary journalistic activities that serve coverage,” police said in the conclusion.
The police thus proposed that the city Prosecutor’s Office indict Khuong on charges of “giving bribes”.
Meanwhile, Khuong has claimed that he did not bribe anyone and that he simply made the mistake of handing the money to Duc on behalf of traffic violator Tran Minh Hoa – an action that was only aimed at obtaining enough evidence for an exposé story about corrupt acts committed by Duc.
The story was published in Tuoi Tre’s Vietnamese-language daily newspaper on July 10, 2011 and on TuoiTreNews (tuoitrenews.vn) with the title “Traffic cop takes bribe to return bike” the same day.
After Khuong’s 4-month detention term ended on May 2, police decided to detain him for another three months to “clarify some other issues”. Efforts to bail out Khuong have so far been unsuccessful.