Vietnamese eatery owner faces criminal charge over license

Created 21 April 2016
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Opening a café in front of a police station appears to be the worst decision Nguyen Van Tan has ever made.

The café of Nguyen Van Tan is pictured in Binh Chanh District, Ho Chi Minh City.


Just a month into its inauguration in August 2015, the establishment, selling breakfast, lunch and coffee, was inspected by officers from the police station opposite twice, eventually leading to a criminal charge against its owner.

On August 8, 2015, Tan opened his coffee shop in Binh Chanh District, Ho Chi Minh City, with a business license scheduled to be granted on August 19.

On August 13, two officers from the Binh Chanh police station opposite inspected the facility and booked Tan for lacking the necessary business license and food safety certification.

Tan showed police his papers proving that his license was slated to be issued on August 19, but the officers were not satisfied.

The owner was eventually fined VND17 million (US$759) for these violations, according to the case record, which was curiously signed by two other officers, not the duo who had inspected his café.

On August 19, Tan obtained his business license, and the food safety certification was scheduled to be issued on September 29.

Because of the delay, Tan temporarily stopped selling food at his café, offering only coffee and bottled drinks, while waiting for the food safety certificate.

However on September 10, police from the opposite station stormed the café again, this time booking him for violating food safety and hygiene regulations.

On September 25, the chief officer of the investigative unit under Binh Chanh police decided to probe the case, and upheld the decision via the Binh Chanh People’s Procuracy the following day.

On March 11, 2016, the district’s procuracy issued an indictment against Tan for “conducting business illegally.”

Tan said he had no idea why he is facing a criminal charge when all he wants to do is earn a living.

“Is it because my café is opposite the police station? Is my only wrongdoing that I pose competition against their canteen?” Tan was quoted by Saigon Giai Phong (Liberated Saigon) newspaper as saying.

Nguyen Van Tan


Hasty decision

Vo Gia Binh, deputy head of the Binh Chanh People’s Procuracy, said Tan was prosecuted for breaching regulations pursuant to Article 159 of the Penal Code, which punishes those who conduct a business without a license, or without specific permits.

Tan did not have the business license in the first inspection by Binh Chanh police, and he lacked the food safety certificate in the second check, which was enough to charge him with conducting business illegally, Binh added.

“Binh Chanh police have appropriately stated these violations in their prosecution decision, so the procuracy’s upholding of the indictment is in line with regulations,” he said.

“The café was subject to a civil fine for its first offense, so it is right to criminally charge it for the repeat violation.”

Lawyer Ha Hai, from the Ho Chi Minh City Bar Association, said the procucary has “made a hasty decision” in upholding the indictment.

“It is also unreasonable and not entirely in accordance with legal regulations,” Hai said.

The booking record to levy civil fines on violators of food safety regulations must be prepared by the head of a district-level police unit, the lawyer said. In Tan’s case, he was booked by two police officers, not the police chief, Hai noted.

The record of the second inspection only said Tan had violated food safety and hygiene rules, while an indictment can only be made if he is booked for “not having a food safety certificate,” the lawyer added.

City-level police intervention

In the latest development, Dinh La Thang, secretary of the Ho Chi Minh City's Party Committee, on Wednesday tasked the city's police chief and chief prosecutor with clarifying the case.

Thang demanded that relevant individuals be strictly sanctioned for any wrongdoings they have made in prosecuting the café owner.

"What should be done first is to regain public trust and ensure that the business environment of Ho Chi Minh City is fair and healthy for everyone and every business," he told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.

In the meantime, Nguyen Van Quy, the police chief of Binh Chanh District, also told Tuoi Tre on Wednesday morning that the municipal police department had withdrawn the case file of Tan for review.

He refused to elaborate, saying he is not authorized to comment.


Source: Tuoi Tre News

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