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Tourism, Air Tickets, & Medical Sleaze



BANGKOK, Thailand — Vietnam arrested foreign ministry,
tourism, air, medical, and manufacturing officials and
expelled them from the ruling Communist Party, amid
multi-million dollar corruption scandals which are testing
Hanoi’s reliability in the U.S. Indo-Pacific Economic
Framework and Centers for Disease Control.

officials allegedly pocketed $240 million by suckering
frightened Vietnamese into paying inflated fees for
government-arranged COVID-19 repatriation flights from
abroad and cumbersome permits.

They also allegedly
price-fixed emergency pandemic health care and

“The anti-corruption campaign is causing
increasing uncertainty and anxiety among the [Vietnamese
Communist Party] rank and file,” the Australian Defense
Force Academy’s New South Wales University professor
emeritus Carlyle Thayer said in an

“Steering committees for each of
Vietnam’s 68 administrative units are expected to be more
proactive in rooting out economic corruption.

raises the possibility of factional in-fighting at the
national and local level,” said Australia-based Mr. Thayer
who returned from Vietnam two weeks ago.

“The U.S.
Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) provides an
opportunity for both sides to work together, to address the
issues of corruption.

“Vietnamese participation in the
IPEF will be viewed as an opportunity to link international
commitments to domestic reform,” Mr. Thayer

Vietnam’s other international partners are also

“The scandals definitely affect Vietnam’s
standing with governments, financial and development
institutions, and the private sector,” said Bangkok-based
Kasit Piromya, executive board member of ASEAN
Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR).

ASEAN is the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations grouping Brunei,
Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the
Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

also undermines the standing of the CPV (Communist Party of
Vietnam),” he said in an interview.

“The U.S., and
other investors and trading partners of Vietnam, must be
more firm on governance anti-corruption measures and the
rule of law,” said Mr. Kasit, who was Thailand’s foreign
minister during 2008-2011.

President Biden launched
the IPEF on May 23, gathering Australia, Brunei, India,
Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the
Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

White House said among the IPEF’s “key pillars” is the
“criminalization of bribery in accordance with U.N.
standards…to strengthen our efforts to crack down on

CPV Chief Nguyen Phu Trong, 77, achieved
reelection at the start of 2021 for a five-year term — his
third — on a tough, ongoing anti-corruption

“This anti-corruption fight is still very
hard,” Mr. Trong said at the time.

When COVID-19 first
swept Southeast Asia in 2020, Vietnam was praised for
efficiently fighting the virus with mass testing, strict
lockdowns, and fast medical treatment.

But in 2021,
Vietnam’s “demand for medical devices has been skyrocketing,
giving rise to more corruption opportunities,” warned
international law firm Baker McKenzie’s Global Compliance

When the country’s infection rate rose from
1,500 in 2020 to 10 million during the first months of 2022
— including 43,000 fatalities — testing kits suddenly
became unusually expensive.

In response, the
government’s “blazing furnace” anti-corruption crackdown
accused more than 60 officials of price-fixing, including at
the foreign and health ministries.

Officials were also
arrested at the Ministry of Science and Technology, the
Military Medical Academy, government-owned Viet A
Technologies, Hanoi’s Center for Disease Control (CDC), and
local health departments.

Hanoi’s CDC Director Truong
Quang Viet was busted on June 10 for “violating regulations
on bidding, causing serious consequences” and inflating
COVID test kit prices, police said according to Vietnam’s
Tuoi Tre News.

“Several officials — including
high-ranking military generals, and directors of provincial
branches of the [Hanoi] Center for Disease Control — have
been arrested or placed under criminal investigation for
their involvement in the case,” VnExpress

Mr. Viet’s predecessor, former Hanoi CDC
director Nguyen Nhat Cam, was imprisoned for 10 years in
2020 for similar corruption involving COVID-19 testing
equipment, causing the government to lose

Vice President Harris launched a U.S. CDC
Southeast Asia Regional Office in Hanoi in August 2021,
partly to work with Vietnam’s provincial CDC.

U.S. CDC [based in Atlanta, Ga.] has a long-standing
presence in Southeast Asia, including a CDC Vietnam Country
Office which has worked with the government of Vietnam for
almost 25 years to address shared health priorities,” the
U.S. Embassy in Vietnam said in June.

No corruption
evidence or allegations have publicly appeared involving the
U.S. CDC’s new regional office or American

In 2020, the U.S. CDC said its Vietnam
Country Office staff included eight “U.S. Assignees” and 60
“locally employed”.

In March, “U.S. CDC provided
training on COVID-19 testing, biosafety and sample
collection at Vietnam’s provincial CDCs and hospitals in 34
of Vietnam’s 63 provinces,” it said.

Bribes, however,
allegedly convinced Vietnam’s health officials to supply
overpriced COVID test kits to the Hanoi CDC and several

In January, Phan Quoc Viet — general
director of Viet A, which manufactured the swab kits —
“admitted” to paying $35 million in bribe “bonuses” to
health and hospital officials, VnExpress reported.

April 2020, the company was licensed by the Ministry of
Health to distribute COVID-19 test kits,” reported Vietnam

“Since then, it has supplied the test kits to
[Vietnam’s] Centers for Disease Control and other medical
facilities in 62 provinces and cities across the

Various officials allegedly resold kits for
public use for $20 — a 45 percent increase over their
normal price — reaping millions of dollars in illicit

Meanwhile, Viet A’s PCR kits were hailed as a
successful joint venture with the Military Academy of

Viet A finagled a government medal, awarded
for its entrepreneurial role.

Suspicions emerged
however after the World Health Organization (WHO) said Viet
A’s kits were “not eligible for WHO procurement”.

conflicted with a Science and Technology Ministry boast in
April 2020 that WHO approved the kits.

The Viet A
director claimed nearly a dozen countries wanted to buy

Investigators discovered Viet A also allegedly
lied by stating it locally manufactured at least three
million rapid test kits in 2021, which were actually cheap
imports from China.

In June, officials kicked Health
Minister Nguyen Thanh Long, and Hanoi Communist Party
Chairman Chu Ngoc Anh, out of the party and charged them
with corruption.

The two allegedly violated party and
government regulations, “causing severe consequences, losses
to the money and assets of the State, undermining the
COVID-19 fight, causing social unrest, and affecting the
reputation of the Party, the Health Ministry, and Science
Ministry,” Hanoi’s Politburo and Secretariat said.

Long, a 56-year-old northerner, became health minister in
November 2020, assigned to protect Vietnam from COVID-19. He
also headed the Central Committee for Health

Hanoi-born Mr. Anh, 57, was minister of science
and technology during 2016-2020 before being elected Hanoi
Communist Party chairman, coinciding with the capital’s
worsening COVID-19 spread.

To tackle the corruption,
the Communist Party’s powerful Central Inspection Committee
proposed to the Politburo in April that the entire Party
Committee of the Science and Technology Ministry from
2016-2021 be disciplined, according to VnExpress

The Inspection Committee proposed the same mass
discipline for all Health Ministry Party Committee members
from 2016-2021.

Bribery allegations also flew sky

In April, the Public Security Ministry arrested
Deputy Foreign Minister To Anh Dung and two others,
allegedly linked to exorbitantly priced air tickets for
emergency repatriation flights.

Vietnam flew more than
200,000 citizens home from more than 60 countries and

Mr. Dung, 58, arranged air tickets for
Vietnamese in various countries, including poor migrant
workers who lost overseas jobs due to COVID’s economic

Others needed to urgently fly back to Vietnam
to help stricken relatives.

In May, the previous
deputy foreign minister was jailed for four years for
selling counterfeit medicine.

In March, security
officials arrested Binh Air Services and Tourism Trading
Co.’s General Director Nguyen Dieu Mo for allegedly paying
bribes for favors.

Some Foreign Ministry consular
officials had been arrested for “seeking personal gain” by
allegedly funneling bribes to license companies to organize
repatriation flights, the Public Security Ministry

The Communist Party’s Central Committee declared
in May new anti-corruption steering committees would be
established in all provinces, to root out of illegal
activity on local levels.


Richard S. Ehrlich
is a Bangkok-based American foreign correspondent reporting
from Asia since 1978. Excerpts from his two new nonfiction
books, “Rituals. Killers. Wars. & Sex. — Tibet, India,
Nepal, Laos, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka & New York”
and “Apocalyptic Tribes, Smugglers & Freaks” are
available at

© Scoop Media


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Denzel Washington’s 7 Best And 7 Worst Movie Roles Ranked




After his critically acclaimed role in 1989’s “Glory,” Denzel Washington appeared in the lackluster buddy comedy film “Heart Condition,” with the late great Bob Hoskins. In the film, a bigoted white police officer (Hoskins) undergoes a heart transplant after suffering a major heart attack. When he wakes up, he’s surprised to find his new heart previously belonged to a recently deceased Black lawyer (Washington), who visits the officer as a ghost to persuade him to investigate his murder.

It’s a silly setup for a film, and unfortunately, the movie does little to set itself apart from any other buddy cop film that came out around the same time. Instead, it relies too heavily on its mediocre, downright unfunny screenplay, completely failing to capitalize on the considerable talent and chemistry of its two main co-stars.

Roger Ebert probably summed “Heart Condition” up best in his review, saying, “The movie is all over the map, trying whatever seems to work at the moment.” Poorly received in 1990, it frequently occupies the lowest spot on ranked lists of Washington’s films, with many seeing it as a forgettable footnote in an otherwise unforgettable career.

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Biden Dismisses Voter Fraud, but Justice Department Keeps Prosecuting It




The Biden administration’s Justice Department successfully prosecuted election fraud cases last month in Pennsylvania and Louisiana, even as the president has spent much of his term so far asserting that voter fraud is a myth.

Federal prosecutors in individual U.S. attorney’s offices also have brought separate cases in Arizona, North Carolina, and New York during President Joe Biden’s administration.

At the same time, though, Biden ratcheted up rhetoric against state reforms aimed at preventing voter fraud.

Late last year, the White House issued a press release touting plans to “restore and strengthen American democracy” and improve “voting rights.” Part of that effort by the Biden administration included “combating misinformation and disinformation” that could “sow mistrust” in elections. 

‘Exceedingly Rare’

In January, Biden spoke in Atlanta to promote congressional Democrats’ legislation to federalize elections and blasted a Georgia measure aimed at preventing voter fraud. 

The president, referring to the contested 2020 election in which he defeated incumbent Donald Trump, criticized those who were “sowing doubt [and] inventing charges of fraud.”

During his State of the Union address in March, Biden again ripped Republicans’ state legislation to prevent voter fraud, saying: “In state after state, new laws have been passed, not only to suppress the vote, but to subvert entire elections. We cannot let this happen.” 

In July 2021, during a speech in Philadelphia, Biden said the “denial of full and free and fair elections is the most un-American thing that any of us can imagine.”

In August 2021, senior Biden White House officials issued a report criticizing state proposals for election reforms and argued: “An often-cited reason for these bills and laws is voter fraud, yet voter fraud is extremely rare.” 

Louisiana Vote-Buying Case

Last month, two former officials in Amite, Louisiana, pleaded guilty as federal prosecutors pursued their roles in a conspiracy to pay or offer to pay voters for casting ballots in a federal election. 

Court documents said former Amite Police Chief Jerry Trabona, 72, and former Amite City Council member Kristian Hart, 49, paid voters in Tangipahoa Parish to vote in open primary and general elections in 2016 in which they were candidates, according to a Justice Department announcement. 

Trabona and Hart admitted that they agreed to pay voters during the contests, prosecutors said. Because federal candidates appeared on the same ballot, the matter gained the stature of a federal case. 

The former police chief and former council member are scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 1. They face up to five years in prison on each of the three counts. 

“We must have fair elections, free from the taint of corruption, to ensure a fully functional government,” U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans, who oversees the Eastern District of Louisiana, said in a formal statement. 

Former Congressman Pleads Guilty in Philadelphia

In Philadelphia, former Rep. Michael “Ozzie” Myers, 79, pleaded guilty in June to conspiracy to deprive voters of civil rights, bribery, obstructing justice, falsifying voting records, and conspiring to illegally vote in a federal election.  

“Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy. If even one vote has been illegally cast or if the integrity of just one election official is compromised, it diminishes faith in [the] process,” U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams announced

“Votes are not things to be purchased and democracy is not for sale,” Williams said. “If you are a political consultant, election official, or work with the polling places in any way, I urge you to do your job honestly and faithfully.” 

Myers, a Democrat, represented Pennsylvania’s 1st Congressional District for two terms in the late 1970s, but resigned in disgrace in 1980 as part of the broad “Abscam” bribery scandal.  

Myers was convicted and sentenced to federal prison. After his release in 1985, he became a political consultant.

The former congressman admitted to coordinating plots to fraudulently stuff ballot boxes for specific Democratic candidates in Pennsylvania elections in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. 

Myers’ guilty plea came after several others in the conspiracy pleaded guilty last year. The investigation began in 2020 under the Trump administration’s Justice Department and continued during the Biden administration. 

Myers admitted in court to bribing Domenick J. DeMuro, a judge of elections for the 39th Ward, 36th Division, in South Philadelphia. Judge of elections is a title held by some election workers in the city. 

DeMuro pleaded guilty in May 2020. Myers admitted to bribing DeMuro to add votes illegally for certain Democrat candidates in primary elections. 

Some of these candidates were running for judicial office and their campaigns had hired Myers. Others were his favored candidates for federal, state, or local offices. 

Myers solicited “consulting fees” from his clients, then used portions of these funds to pay DeMuro and others to tamper with election results, prosecutors said.

The payments from Meyers ranged from $300 to $5,000 per election. According to the Justice Department, DeMuro added fraudulent votes on a voting machine, also known as “ringing up” votes, for Myers’ clients and preferred candidates, 

Myers also admitted to conspiring to commit election fraud with Marie Beren, a former judge of elections for the 39th Ward, 2nd Division, in South Philadelphia. 

Beren pleaded guilty in October 2021. Myers admitted to giving Beren directions to add votes to his preferred candidates. Myers said that, on almost every Election Day, he drove Beren to a polling station to open up. During the drive, he advised Beren which candidates he was supporting, so that she knew which ones should get fraudulent votes. 

Beren also would advise in-person voters to support and cast fraudulent votes for Myers’ preferred candidates on behalf of voters whom she knew would not or did not show up to vote. 

On a given Election Day, federal prosecutors said, Myers would talk to Beren by cell phone while she was at the polling station about the number of votes cast for his preferred candidates. She would report to Myers. 

If voter turnout were high, Beren would add fewer fraudulent votes in support of Myers’ preferred candidates. 

Prosecutors said that Beren and her accomplices from the Philadelphia Board of Elections would falsify polling books as well as the List of Voters and Party Enrollment for the 39th Ward, 2nd Division, by recording the names, party affiliation, and order of appearance for voters who actually had not showed up at the polling station to cast a ballot. 

Arizona Surprises

In March, a federal judge sentenced Joseph John Marak, of Surprise, Arizona, to 30 months of supervised probation and fined him $2,400 for making a false voter registration application, a felony offense. 

Already a convicted felon, Marak, 62, wasn’t eligible to vote in Arizona, but voted in six federal elections there, federal prosecutors said. 

In January, Marak pleaded guilty to submitting a voter registration application and falsely certified the statement, “I am not a convicted felon.” 

In August 2011, Marak was convicted of 18 felony counts in U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of North Carolina for crimes unrelated to voter fraud charges in Arizona. He was sentenced to 72 months in prison for the North Carolina felonies. 

Based on the fraudulent registration, prosecutors said, Marak voted in elections from 2015 through 2020. 

State laws differ on allowing convicted felons to vote. 

“If you wish to vote in Arizona following a felony conviction, please speak first with your local County Recorder to fully understand the process for restoring your voting rights,” U.S. Attorney Gary Restaino, of the District of Arizona, said in a written statement.

Restaino noted that his office has prosecuted multiple voter fraud cases. 

“This is the second voter fraud case we’ve charged in the last year, and the first arising out of the 2020 election cycle,” Restaino said. 

In February, a federal judge sentenced Marcia Johnson, 70, of Lake Havasu City, Arizona, to one year of supervised probation and fined her $1,000. Johnson pleaded guilty to one count of voting more than once, a felony. 

Iranian Election Meddling

In November, federal prosecutors in New York unsealed an indictment charging two Iranian nationals with involvement in a cyber-enabled campaign to intimidate American voters. 

Seyyed Mohammad Hosein Musa Kazemi, 24, and Sajjad Kashian, 27, obtained confidential voter information from at least one New York state election office website, according to the Justice Department.

Federal prosecutors said the two Iranian nationals also sent threatening email messages to intimidate and interfere with voters; created and disseminated a video containing disinformation about purported vulnerabilities in election infrastructure; and attempted to access, without authorization, the voting-related websites of several states. 

Prosecutors also alleged that Kazemi and Kashian successfully gained unauthorized access to a U.S. media company’s computer network. If not for successful FBI and company efforts to mitigate the threat, prosecutors said, the pair would have used the media outlet to promote false claims after the election.

“As alleged, Kazemi and Kashian were part of a coordinated conspiracy in which Iranian hackers sought to undermine faith and confidence in the U.S. presidential election,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams, of the Southern District of New York, said in a formal statement, adding:

Working with others, Kazemi and Kashian accessed voter information from at least one state’s voter database, threatened U.S. voters via email, and even disseminated a fictitious video that purported to depict actors fabricating overseas ballots.

In September and October 2020, the Justice Department said, the two indicted Iranian nationals and other conspirators attempted to compromise 11 state election websites, including those providing voter registration and information services. The Iranians downloaded information on about 100,000 separate voters. 

Claiming to be members of the right-wing militant group known as the Proud Boys, prosecutors said, members of the conspiracy sent false Facebook messages and emails to congressional Republicans and others associated with Trump’s 2020 campaign, as well as to journalists. 

The two Iranians told Republicans that Democrats planned to “edit mail-in ballots or even register non-existent voters,” prosecutors said. 

Noncitizen in North Carolina

In November, a federal grand jury in Raleigh charged a North Carolina man with passport fraud, voting as a noncitizen, and falsely claiming to be a U.S. citizen in order to register to vote.

Federal prosecutors said that Garbant Piquant, 53, a resident of Garner, North Carolina, used a false Virginia birth certificate as proof that he was a native-born citizen. 

Federal investigators checked records and determined that the Virginia birth certificate didn’t exist. Instead, they found Piquant’s birth certificate in the Bahamas. 

Prosecutors said he voted in Wake County, North Carolina, primary and general elections from 2018 through 2020. 

Trouble in Troy

In June, a city council member in Troy, New York, pleaded guilty to casting absentee ballots in two other people’s names. She resigned from the council as part of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors. 

Kimberly Ashe-McPherson successfully ran for reelection to the Troy City Council in 2021, first in the primary and then in the general election.  

In her guilty plea, Ashe-McPherson, 61, admitted that in the primary election, she voted by absentee ballot in the name of another person. 

In the general election, she admitted, she voted by absentee ballot in the names of two others. 

Have an opinion about this article? To sound off, please email and we’ll consider publishing your edited remarks in our regular “We Hear You” feature. Remember to include the url or headline of the article plus your name and town and/or state. 

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Florida gator hunting starts with expanded time, weapons | Ap




ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s alligator hunting season started Monday with new rules expanding the time and weapons that can be used.

The new rules expanded alligator hunting to 24 hours a day, instead of the previous 17 hours a day, primarily at night and early morning, that had been allowed.

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