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Vietnam man fined for exchanging dollar bill at local gold shop

A 100-dollar bill.
A 100-dollar bill.

A man from the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho has been fined VND90 million (US$3,850) for exchanging a dollar bill into Vietnamese currency at a local gold shop that is not licensed to provide currency exchange service.

Police raided a jewelry shop in downtown Can Tho on January 30 and found Nguyen Ca Re, 38, exchanging a 100-dollar bill for VND2.26 million in the local currency.

The shop, owned by Le Hong Luc, was not licensed to offer currency exchange service.

Re was fined VND90 million for “buying or selling foreign currency at an unlicensed establishment,” while the shop owner was subject to a heftier fine of VND180 million ($7,700) for “conducting currency exchange service without license.”

These fines were issued on September 4, more than seven months after the incident, according to Can Tho’s deputy chairman Truong Quang Hoai, who signed both civil penalty decisions.

The dollar bill and VND2.26 million in cash traded by the parties were confiscated by police officers at the time of the raid.

“I don’t understand why they waited all these months to slap me with an administrative penalty,” Luc said.

A gold shop in Can Tho City in southern Vietnam where a local man was caught exchanging a 100-dollar bill for Vietnamese currency.
A gold shop in Can Tho City in southern Vietnam where a local man was caught exchanging a 100-dollar bill for Vietnamese currency.

Meanwhile, Re said he is only an electrician who makes little more than VND3 million ($130) a month from his job.

The 100-dollar bill he was caught trying to cash out for some local money was a gift from a friend, he claimed.

Re added that he did not know it was illegal to exchange money at gold shops, as many of his friends also did the same without any trouble.

According to current regulations in Vietnam, foreign currencies can only be traded legally at banks or licensed counters.

Currency exchange counters are only allowed to be located at hotels ranked three stars or higher, international borders, entertainment centers intended for foreigners, and air ticket agencies.

Tourist attractions, shopping malls and supermarkets with a large volume of foreign visitors can also have currency exchange counters located within them.

Gold and jewelry shops are generally not authorized to offer currency exchange service, except a selected few that are licensed to buy foreign currencies, but not sell them.

Stores that violate these rules are subject to fines ranging from VND500 million ($21,400) to VND600 million ($25,700), while those found trading with unlicensed shops can be fined VND80-100 million ($3,400-4,300).

A stack of dollar bills.
A stack of dollar bills.

Repeated searches

According to Luc, police officers not only confiscated the cash involved in his transaction with Re but also conducted a thorough search through his establishment and seized droves of valuable assets.

“Even our bedroom was searched,” Luc said, adding that the officers claimed to have received a tip-off about illegal transactions done at his place.

In total, he said 20 diamonds and 19,910 artificial gems were seized along with all the shop’s inventory of white gold due to “lack of certification” and “foreign-language labels.”

Luc said the confiscated diamonds were his personal properties stored inside a private safe and were not intended for sale, so he could not provide any papers.

Police officers also took a CCTV camera installed inside the shop and returned it eight months later with all footage wiped clean, Luc claimed.

According to Luc, it was not the first time his shop had been raided by police.

In June 21017, officers also searched the establishment, seized some white gold and slapped him with a fine of VND8.5 million ($365).

“The raids have affected my business, as customers are deterred by frequent police activities,” Luc said.

 Can Tho police officers for comment on Tuesday but has not received an official response.