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City officials apologise for ’baseless’ prosecution case

Update: April, 26/2016 - 12:47
The local procuracy apologised to a cafe-owner in HCM City’s Bình Chánh District for a ‘baseless’ prosecution against him while four officials involved were suspended from work.– Photo

HCM CITY – The local procuracy apologised to a cafe-owner in HCM City’s Bình Chánh District for a ‘baseless’ prosecution against him while four officials involved were suspended from work.

Bình Chánh People’s Procuracy Vice Prosecutor General Võ Gia Bình on Sunday informed Nguyễn Văn Tấn of the decision to call off the case against him and to end his house arrest.

The case against the 50-year-old became widely known early this month when several media outlets reported on a decision by district police last September to prosecute the Xin chào cafe owner for alleged illegal business. It was later proved that the police made procedural mistakes as well as faulty interpretations of the law.

On August 8, 2015, Tấn opened the cafe without registering a business certificate. He was fined by local police a total of VNĐ17 million (US$790), though some legal faults regarding witnesses in the report were detected later which could make the fines ineligible.

He finished the paper work and was granted the certificate on August 19, yet decided to take food off the menu and sell drinks only.

However, nearly one month later – on September 10, the police - without officers specialising in food quality in the inspection team as law regulates - visited the cafe again and reported supposed violations such as using sub-standard water for food processing or having insects in the cooking area.            

The owner received the prosecution decision two weeks later, justified by the police to be based on Article 159 of the Criminal Code saying any businesses without particular certificates might be subject to criminal charges. Yet such particular certificates were not specified and in this case, the police interpreted the certificate in need as the one on food safety and hygiene.

As the court date on April 28 was nearing, pressure from the media and the citizens on the case made Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc speak out about Tấn’s case, asking HCM City People’s Committee to look into the charge against the owner.

The Supreme People’s Procuracy on Saturday ordered the suspension of the case, saying a certificate on food safety and hygiene was unnecessary in Tấn’s case and the police’s prosecution was baseless.

“No words can describe my joy now,” said Tấn. “I’m so grateful to the leaders, the residents and the media who have cared for and supported me”.

“I won’t ask for compensation. But if it is ok, please hand me back the fines as it is a big amount for me.”

“I just want to have peace to do business now,” he said.

Officers suspended

HCM City Police yesterday decided to temporarily suspend two police officers involved in the Xin chào cafe case for further investigation.

The two included Bình Chánh Police Head Colonel Nguyễn Văn Quý – who directly signed the prosecution proposal against Tấn and Major Nguyễn Hoàng Tuấn, Deputy Head of the Economic and Positions Investigation team.

This move brought the number of officers disciplined so far to four.

On Saturday, HCM City People’s Procuracy suspended District 6 Vice Prosecutor General Lê Thanh Tòng – then-Binh Chanh Vice Prosecutor General who signed the decision to approve Tấn’s prosecution. Another one was Hồ Văn Son, a prosecutor of Bình Chánh District directly in charge of the notorious case. – VNS 

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