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Cablegate: Vietnam: Trade Officials Arrested for Taking

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 002620

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE PASS USTR FOR DSPOONER/CMILLER/EBRYAN
STATE FOR EAP/BCLTV AND EB/TPP/ABT/BTT
USDOC FOR OTEXA
BANGKOK FOR CUSTOMS ATTACHE
USDOC ALSO FOR 4431/MAC/AP/OPB/VLC/HPPHO
TREASURY FOR OASIA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KTEX ECON VM
SUBJECT: Vietnam: Trade Officials Arrested for Taking
Bribes in Exchange for Textile Quota


Sensitive but unclassified. Protect Accordingly.

1. (U) SUMMARY: On September 15, a key Ministry of Trade
(MOT) official responsible for allocation of Vietnam's
textile quota for the U.S. market was arrested by the
Economic Police for allegedly taking bribes in exchange for
quota. MOT officials have stated publicly that the case will
not delay the allocation of 2005 textile quota. END
SUMMARY.

2. (U) According to press reports, on September 15, the
Economic Police in Hanoi arrested Mr. Le Van Thang, Deputy
Director of the Export-Import Department of the Ministry of
Trade, for leading a "ring" that allegedly was taking bribes
in exchange for export quota to the U.S. market and serving
as an intermediary for illegal quota transfer deals among
Vietnamese exporters. The Export-Import Department bears
primary responsibility for textile quota allocation in
Vietnam. At least one other MOT official and several non-
GVN officials have also been arrested in conjunction with
this case. Reports indicate that the Economic Police will
review allocation of U.S. textile quota for the past several
years and may also look into allocation of export quota for
the European Union market. Economic Police plan to establish
an "open mailbox" for complaints from businesses affected by
the extortion ring.

3. (U) Mr. Thang has been the primary interlocutor for
Econoffs in Hanoi for several years on issues related to the
negotiation and implementation of the bilateral textile
agreement (conclude in early 2003). He worked closely with
Econoffs in both Hanoi and HCMC to facilitate several
textile production verification visits in Vietnam by U.S.
Customs and Border Patrol. Mr. Thang began working at MOT's
Import Export office in 1989, before foreign investment and
access to key export markets sparked a boom in Vietnam's
textile exports (now Vietnam's second largest export after
crude oil) and has been with the Department ever since. He
joined the GVN's working group for U.S. textile quota
allocation in 2001.

4. (SBU) According to press reports, Mr. Mai Van Dau, the
VM of Trade who bears principal responsibility for the
textile portfolio at MOT, has asserted publicly that U.S.
textile quota for 2005 will still be allocated according to
schedule. (Note: 2004 quota has already been allocated.
End note.) On September 16, Mr. Nguyen Duc Thanh, another
Deputy Director from the Export-Import Department, took over
Mr. Thang's textile responsibilities. Mr. Thanh worked at
Vietnam's Trade Mission to the U.S. in the late 1990's, and
served as Deputy Director of MOT's Multilateral Affairs
Department before moving to the Export-Import Department in
2002.

5. (SBU) A ConGen contact in the textile industry told
Congen Econoff that A Chau Company, located in HCMC's Binh
Than District, reported Mr. Thang to the police for
extorting bribes in exchange for his allocating additional
U.S. quota in some of the tightest textile categories. A
Chau Company reportedly paid Thang money, but never received
additional quota in return. The Congen contact also alleged
that Mr. Thang had a poor reputation in the textile and
garment industry even before he began working on allocation
of U.S. textile quota in 2001 because he maintained a high
level of "secrecy" in his dealings with industry businesses.

6. (U) Vietnam exported almost USD 2 billion worth of
textiles to the U.S in 2003 and almost USD 540 million to
the EU. Demand for U.S. quota in the "hot" categories
(particularly knit pants and shirts) significantly surpassed
quota supply in both 2003 and 2004. The potential profit
from illegally "freeing up" quota in these categories is
significant.

7. (SBU) Comment: Since implementation of the bilateral
textile agreement began in May 2003, we had been pleasantly
surprised with the effort MOT appeared to take to ensure
quota allocation was transparent - including posting
information on MOT's website and frequent meetings with the
Textile Subcommittee of the HCMC Amcham. Because of the key
role played by Thang in quota allocation, if the charges
against him prove valid, they will cast a very dark shadow
over all aspects of quota allocation for the past two years.
On the other hand, if the charges are valid, the GVN merits
considerable praise for taking steps clean up corruption in
this critical industry. In our contacts with MOT and other
officials, Emboffs in Hanoi and HCMC will highlight the
importance of resolving this case quickly and taking
concrete steps to prevent any future tampering with textile
quota allocation. End comment.
MARINE

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