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Owner of Vietnam gold shop fined for dollar exchange mulls lawsuit against authorities

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.

The owner of a gold shop in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho who made headlines after being fined for exchanging foreign currencies without a license is now considering bringing a lawsuit against local authorities for seizing property unrelated to the case.

Confiscated assets from the gold shop, which include 20 diamonds and 19,910 artificial gemstones valued at more than VND548 million (US$23,500), are currently set to be auctioned off and all proceeds to be added to public coffers.

Can Tho police staged a raid on the shop in January, catching owner Le Hong Luc exchanging a customer’s 100-dollar bill for VND2.26 million.

Officers also conducted a thorough search of the building, claiming that they had received a tip-off about other illegal transactions taking place at the business and seizing 20 diamonds and 19,910 artificial gemstones for lacking proof of purchase.

Last month, Luc was slapped with a VND180 million ($7,700) fine for running an unlicensed currency exchange service. The customer he was caught transacting with was fined half the amount.

The Can Tho administration recently issued their approval for a plan to liquidate the assets seized from Luc’s shop.

Accordingly, the civil fine paid by Luc and his customer will be deposited into the State Treasury of Can Tho, which is also tasked with storing the diamonds and gemstones until they can be liquidated.

An asset appraisal committee is also to be formed to value the confiscated items for auctioning, the proceeds from which will be added to the provincial budget.

A gold shop in Can Tho City in southern Vietnam is empty of customers after news broke out about a police raid at the shop.
A gold shop in Can Tho City in southern Vietnam is empty of customers after news broke out about a police raid at the shop.

 Luc said he only found out that his assets would be auctioned through media reports.

“I’m astounded,” he said.

“The fact that I paid my fine doesn’t mean I won’t file a complaint or lawsuit against the police for the raid and the confiscation of my diamonds and gemstones,” Luc added.

“I paid the fine out of my respect for the law and willingness to strictly abide by administrative decisions.”

Luc said the confiscated diamonds were his personal property and were being stored inside a private safe, not intended for sale.

Therefore, he had no papers proving their origin to show authorities.

He said his family is consulting lawyers to possibly bring the case to court.

Though the confiscation happened back in January, Vietnamese laws allow a one-year window for complaints or lawsuits to be filed against an administrative decision, Luc said.

Meanwhile, Can Tho chairman Vo Thanh Thong said the decision to add the confiscated assets to public coffers was issued days ago.

“They are confiscated assets, and the violator has also paid their fine without any complaints,” Thong explained.

“It’s common and legal practice to auction these assets for money that will be added to the public budget,” he said.