Hanoi suspends traffic cops after video points to streetside shakedowns

A screen capture from a video by Tien Phong shows a Hanoi's traffic cop using a stack of paper to cover the money paid by a violator in March 2018.

A plain clothes man was also seen with officers advising traffic violators on how much they should pay.

Hanoi has suspended a number of traffic police officers after a video published by a local newspaper showed them taking money from drivers who had violated traffic laws without issuing them tickets.

A seven-and-a-half minute video published by Tien Phong on Tuesday has been shared widely online as it highlights two of Vietnam’s main concerns: police behavior and bribery.

The video shows violators discreetly paying cash to traffic police in Hanoi without being issued a ticket. The footage appears to show the police paying little interest in the drivers’ licenses, and more interest in their money.

Some bargaining was also seen, but the ‘fines’ were fixed, between VND100,000-300,000 ($4.40-13), depending on the location, the Tien Phong report said. Those who “knew the rules” could continue on their journeys within seconds, it said.

Vietnamese law allows traffic police to collect fines of up to VND250,000 without issuing a ticket, but they  have to issue a receipt. This was not seen in the video.

The report, which called the money tricks “magic”, said the footage was captured across a number of days this month. It said the cops were usually stationed at intersections where street signs were difficult to see, making traffic violations more likely.

The video also captured a man in plain clothes accompanying police and advising violators on how much they should pay. The video suggested that the man received payment from the police for his help.

Hanoi police said it has set up a unit to investigate the matter. The city’s chairman Nguyen Duc Chung has ordered those responsible to be “strictly punished” if the probe reveals any wrongdoings.

Bribery is common in Vietnam, where paying backdoor money has become an unspoken rule at many public offices, including customs, police offices, hospitals and schools.

The Governance and Public Administration Performance Index last year, which interviewed around 14,000 residents in all 63 Vietnamese provinces and cities, highlighted “noticeable spikes” in reports of extra money being paid for anything from civil service positions to good grades.

For example, around 54 percent of respondents claimed bribes were required to get government jobs, up from 51 percent in 2015 and 46 percent in 2011.

In March 2017, the Berlin-based Transparency International identified India and Vietnam as having the highest bribery rates (69 percent and 67 percent respectively) in the region.

Many respondents said they had to pay bribes to access basic services like public education and healthcare.


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