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Vietnam's Deputy FM Arrested Over Pandemic Flight Bribe Scandal


FILE - Vietnam's Deputy Foreign Minister To Anh Dung (right) hands a box of protective masks to Italy's Ambassador to Vietnam Antonio Alessandro during a handover ceremony as Vietnam donated supplies to European countries, in Hanoi, Vietnam, April 7, 2020.

Vietnamese police arrested the country's deputy foreign minister on Thursday for allegedly receiving bribes connected to a repatriation flight program during the pandemic, officials said.

In recent months the communist nation has ramped up an anti-corruption drive, targeting government officials and business people.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Public Security issued a statement saying To Anh Dung and two other officials had been arrested as part of an investigation into a bribery scandal connected to repatriation flights for Vietnamese citizens since 2020.

Police searched the residences and workplaces of the three on Thursday.

No other details on the case were revealed.

The 58-year-old Dung was appointed Vietnam's deputy foreign minister in 2019, after holding various positions at the ministry since 1991.

After closing its borders to slow the spread of Covid-19, Vietnam organized nearly 800 charter flights to bring citizens home from 60 countries and territories, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Travelers faced complicated procedures while paying exorbitant airfares and quarantine fees to get home, reports said.

Police have arrested five other people connected to the case since January.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang previously said those involved in the wrongdoing should be "seriously punished" under the law.

Vietnam had closed itself to the world for almost two years before reopening in mid-March.

The country shifted from a zero-Covid policy to living with the virus once vaccination rates increased.

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