Cool number plates available for a price in Ho Chi Minh City

Many people in Ho Chi Minh City are making serious money by providing number plates to order, delivering traffic fines or retrieving motorcycles impounded by the police before they should be released

Though an automatic number plate registration database has been around since 2007, many vehicle owners can get the "lucky" numbers they desire for a "consideration".

Anyone wanting special number plates simply goes to a motor registry, such as in districts 6, 11, Go Vap or Binh Thanh and asks one of the "obvious" people hanging around outside.

The four digits across the bottom of the number plates distinguish one vehicle from others registered in the same district.

A number plate is considered "lucky" or "cool" if the bottom four digits are the same like "4444" or sequential like "2345."

"Write down any number you like. If you accept our quote, the number is yours," an intermediary named Manh told a Thanh Nien reporter working undercover outside the Vehicles and Drivers Management Office in Ward 12, Binh Thanh District.

After being given the numbers "2772" and "4554," Manh called his partner Bi to place the order and get a price.

"VND5 million, no bargaining," he said bluntly after hanging up.

Manh told the reporter to leave a copy of his ID card and a deposit of VND1 million, and to return the next day to pick up the number plates.

It takes longer and costs VND15 million to get a plate with four identical digits. And itís no good if a vehicle owner is looking for "2222" or "9999" as all the number plates with those final four digits have already been booked, according to Manh.

He guaranteed that anyone who left a deposit but didnít end up with the desired number plate would be compensated to the tune of double the plateís cost.

Nguyen Y Nha, chairman of Ward 12 Peopleís Committee, said some people were being cheated out of their money just because they wanted a cool number plates.

Nha said 14 number plate hawkers had been fined last year for harassing people and causing disorder outside a motor registry.

Duong Quan Hai, head of the HCMC Vehicles and Drivers Management Office, said there was no way those people could provide the numbers they promised.

"I guarantee that my officers donít assist them," he said.

The automatic number plate registration database of the Ministry of Public Security was first put into use in Haiís office in 2007. Since then it has been expanded to every district in the nation.

Vo Van Van, deputy head of the HCMC Road Traffic Police Department, which oversees Haiís office, said the database had been used well and honestly in 2007.

But Van is not sure about things since last year, when the office lost the authority to register number plates. The change meant that motor vehicle registration was no longer under his departmentís direct management.

According to officials, some vehicle owners just come across "cool" number plates by chance.

Oddly enough, it only seems to happen to owners of expensive cars and motorbikes.

But officials deny collusion with unsavory characters hanging outside registry offices

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