Vietnam’s authorities are seeking to prosecute 54 officials for their roles in alleged bribery connected to the repatriation of Vietnamese nationals during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ministry of Public Security said Tuesday that it had concluded its probe and submitted a report to the Supreme People’s Court, proposing to prosecute 54 officials involved in organizing repatriation flights.
They faced charges for taking bribes, giving bribes, brokering bribes, abusing positions and powers while performing official duties, and fraudulently appropriating property, according to the ministry’s statement.
The case was related to Vietnam’s repatriation flight scheme during the COVID-19 pandemic. Local media reported that Vietnam organized 1,000 repatriation flights between 2020 and 2021, bringing back over 200,000 Vietnamese nationals from over 62 countries and territories.
Vietnamese nationals had to buy expensive air tickets and undergo troublesome procedures to return to Vietnam. The situation led some travel firms to bribe officials for approval to organize repatriation flights, VN Express reported.
Police claimed that some Foreign Affairs Ministry officials set up “interest groups” to harass travel agencies and demand bribes. Firms that refused to pay bribes had difficulties getting approval to organize repatriation flights.
According to police, 13 officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had received a total of 81.76 billion dongs ($3.5 million) in bribes, including former Deputy Foreign Minister To Anh Dung, who allegedly received 21.5 billion dongs ($917,000) in bribes to approve repatriation flights.
Vietnam President Resigned
Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc, 68, resigned in January due to violations that were made by officials under his supervision when he was in power. Vietnam’s Communist Party nominated Vo Van Thuong as the country’s new president last month.
Phuc’s resignation is the first time a member of the Communist Party of Vietnam’s top leadership has resigned early in the absence of an illness. He is the most senior official targeted by the Vietnamese regime’s clampdown campaign.
According to VNA, Phuc had resigned at a session of the Vietnamese Communist Party’s Central Committee that was held “to consider and give opinions on Comrade Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s wish to stop holding positions, quit work and retire.” The language of the announcement strongly suggested that he was forced to step down.
In June 2022, Vietnamese authorities arrested the country’s health minister and the mayor of Hanoi for their roles in an alleged $170 million COVID-19 testing kit scandal.
Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party expelled the two officials from the regime and they were sacked from their positions after being accused of violating party rules and allegedly causing losses to the state budget, Reuters reported.
Efthymis Oraiopoulos and Caden Pearson contributed to this report.