It is a tragedy that Mr. Micheal Sestak, a reserve navy-serviceman, was allured in making quick bucks at the non-immigration visa service in Ho Chi Minh city. The bribery ring involves four other Vietnamese nationals. A few points can be drawn from this corruption.
- First, the corruption is so pervasive in Vietnam’s society that temptation is great.
- Second, America is such an exceptional country that people are willing to spend exorbitant fee between 50 and 70 thousand dollars for non-immigration visas.
- Third, the wealth gap in Vietnam is so wide that some have thousand dollars to throw away whereas the GDP per capita is only $1,300.
- Fourth, wealthy Vietnamese are trying to find ways to have residency in other countries because of the uncertainty of the regime and the political landscape.
US Foreign Service officer Michael T. Sestak who once worked at the US Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City has been charged with receiving millions of dollars in bribes from Vietnamese residents seeking visas last year.
Sestak, 42, was arrested last week in South California for the visa-for-money scam and will be escorted to Washington for prosecution, according to US State Department investigators. He has been held without bail for more than a week as a “serious flight risk” defendant. Mr Sestak faces charges of conspiracy to commit visa fraud and bribery.
The story was covered up by the US State Department, but was revealed by McClatchy news agency last Friday.
The number of visas allegedly sold by Mr Sestak, 42, is not yet known. But a 28-page affidavit filed by the US government against him alleges he “received several million dollars in bribes” from Vietnamese seeking to emigrate to the United States.
The affidavit alleged:
“He ultimately moved the money out of Vietnam by using money launderers through offshore banks, primarily based in China, to a bank account in Thailand that he opened in May 2012. He then used the money to purchase real estate in Phuket and Bangkok, Thailand.”
Presumably, Mr Sestak bought condominiums, although the affidavit did not reveal that detail.
The investigation of the alleged green-card sales took 10 months from its beginning to the arrest of Mr Sestak last week in California. It began when an informant told the US government that 50 to 70 people from one Vietnamese village had all obtained visas by paying bribes.
Sestak worked as the head of the non-immigration visa department of the consulate general in Ho Chi Minh City from August 2010 until September 2012, when he left the position to prepare for active-duty service with the Navy.
During the period, Sestak, led a visa-for-money ring comprising of five persons and any Vietnamese people who want to obtain visa to the US had to pay up to US$70,000.
Sestak’s accomplices told visa seekers that the charge would be between $50,000 and $70,000 per visa but they would sometimes charge less, according to State Department investigator Simon Dinits.
The ring encouraged visa brokers to raise the price and keep the amount they charged over the fixed rate as their own commission, Dinits said.
Sestak transferred the money gained from the visa-for-money scam out of Vietnam by using money launderers through offshore banks, mainly based in China, to a bank account in Thailand that he opened in May 2012.
He later used the money to buy real estate in Phuket and Bangkok, Thailand, Dinits added.
According to investigators, the consulate received 31,386 non-immigrant visa applications and rejected 35.1 percent of them from May 1 to September 6, 2012.
During this period, Sestak handled 5,489 visa applications and rejected only 8.2 percent of them. The rate dropped to 3.8 percent in August, shortly before Sestak left the office.
One of the Sestak’s alleged accomplices was the general director of the Vietnam office of a multi-national company located in Vietnam. The four others were friends or relatives of this person, and all are living in Vietnam, Dinits said.
Last July the consulate general was reported by an informant that 50 to 70 people from one village in Vietnam had illegally paid for their visas, he said.
Tuoitrenews is contacting with the consulate general for more information.
Source Tuoi Tre and Bangkok Post