Lawyers say a VND90 million ($3,855) fine for exchanging $100 in a gold shop is disproportionate and unreasonable.
The administrative fine was levied by the People’s Committee of southern Can Tho Province on Nguyen Ca Re, a 38-year-old electrician.
The VND2.3 million ($98.48) that Re received from the shop for the $100 note was also confiscated.
Meanwhile, the gold shop was fined VND295 million ($12,630) for several violations, including the $100 exchange. The $100 note was also seized.
Re said that he had been given the $100 by a relative. Late last year, he’d taken the note to a gold shop and was caught red handed by police officers. The police later issued an official record of violations after months of working with Re.
Re said: “Before, I’ve always brought dollar notes to exchange at gold shops without any trouble.”
He said that with his monthly salary of VND4 million ($171), he doesn’t know how to get the money to pay the VND90 million fine.
Current regulations ban the buying and selling of foreign currencies, but gold shops have for long been used by the public for this purpose.
A State Bank of Vietnam representative told VnExpress that such fines on foreign currency trading was allowed by law.
However, many lawyers have criticized the punishment as being disproportionate.
They said that many people like Re, who do not know the law well, would find it very difficult to legally handle foreign currency.
Nguyen Van Hau, deputy chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City Bar Association, asked: “How do you exactly identify a licensed foreign currency exchange point? It is difficult for an ordinary person to do so. An ordinary person would simply find the nearest place to carry out this transaction.”
Furthermore, Hau said, a fine must be based on the severity of violation and harm done.
He said: “Exchanging $100 for a little more than VND2 million but being fined VND90 million may be legally correct but not reasonable at all.”