My friend Cong asked me to ride him out to Dong Nai one day so that he could pick up a Honda Win that the police confiscated from a customer. Now, a few weeks later, he was finally able to retrieve the motorbike.
He sat behind me on my new Steed for what we thought would be a two-hour ride. About an hour in, I got stopped by the police and had no idea why. I gave him my license and blue card (the most important motorcycle paper, possession of which is ownership) and let Cong do the talking.
After a few minutes' discussion, Cong pulled out his wallet, removed two 100,000 notes in plain sight, folded them a couple times, and put them in the policeman's right front pocket. The officer then handed my papers back to me and we were free to continue on...
It was only much later it occurred to me that the policeman who stopped us was wearing the bright green uniform of the crime police, NOT the stone-ground mustard yellow uniform of the traffic police. The SOB apparently shakes down passers-by as a sideline... compared to the mustard police who do it full-time.
As soon as we stopped again, I asked Cong to please explain what happened.
"Fucking police! Police don't care about papers. Only care about money. Police need money" so they take it from 'rich' foreigners. It's not the first time I've heard that the police are grossly underpaid and resort to extortion to make ends meet. Or to pay cash for a new 7-Series that no one ever asks how he can afford. They don't all drive them, of course; that would be too obvious.
I was stopped for speeding: 50 in a 40 zone. Guilty!
He then filled in the details on why the customer's motorbike was confiscated: the renter didn't know the rules. He didn't pay off the police who stopped him, so they took the bike. Simple.
A few guidelines for paying your traffic fines:
1) The uniform color doesn't matter; if you get stopped, you have to pay.
2) SHOW, DO NOT GIVE, your license and papers to the police unless they take them from you. If you do, they can hold onto them until you give them as much money as they think they can get.
3) Do NOT hand the money to him unless he holds out his hand when you have money in yours. Pull it out so he can see how much, then slip into his front pocket.
4) It doesn't matter if you weren't speeding or doing whatever... pay the bribe or lose your ride.
5) Keep a few hundred thousand VND in your wallet or money clip and stash the rest away. They've been known to grab a wad of bills that was too tempting.
I thanked my friend and repaid him.
When we finally got to the police station, they wouldn't give him the confiscated bike because he was missing one document they hadn't bothered mentioning that he needed. So we returned, together on my bike, empty handed. That's six hours and 200,000 VND (US$9.52) we won't get back. That said, it was a LOT less money than it would've cost me in the US or even with other police here! Probably because I was with a Vietnamese.
He and Terence returned to the police station the next day. They arrived home 10 hours later and 5,000,000 VND (the policeman's fee for releasing the motorbike) poorer, but with the confiscated bike.
There are corrupt police everywhere. At least here, they're out in the open about it.
Repeat after me... "It's Việt Nam."