Former minister accepted $3 mln bribe in TV acquisition case

By Viet Dung, Ba Do   September 3, 2019 | 01:24 pm GMT+7
Former minister accepted $3 mln bribe in TV acquisition case
Nguyen Bac Son, former Minister of Information and Communications, is held by Vietnamese police. Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Public Security.

A former information minister was the mastermind of a private TV firm acquisition by state-owned telecom giant MobiFone, which earned him $3 million in bribes.

Nguyen Bac Son, former Minister of Information and Communications (2011-2016), was paid the sum by Pham Nhat Vu, chairman of Audio Visual Global JSC (AVG), the Ministry of Public Security said.

The ministry’s police department has recommended that Son is charged with accepting bribes and violating regulations on the management and use of public capital leading to serious consequences.

The recommendation was made after the ministry completed investigations into management and use of public capital involving MobiFone, Vietnam’s third largest telecom firm, and certain divisions of the information ministry, in a case that has made headlines since 2016.

Investigation found Son was the mastermind of the deal, which had violated public investment laws and caused an estimated loss of about VND7 trillion ($307 million) to the state budget.

When MobiFone proposed to invest in the broadcasting industry via TV acquisition, Son had suggested AVG. He had known Vu before and knew that he would receive "material benefits" from AVG if the acquisition concluded smoothly.

He had pushed for the deal to be done within his term also to leave a legacy, investigation found.

He permitted the deal without the prime minister’s approval and came out with a statement saying AVG’s TV section must be bought within 2015.

That year, MobiFone signed a memorandum of understanding to buy a 95 percent stake in AVG for VND8.9 trillion ($382.9 million).

The police report issued last Saturday said that when the purchase was completed, Son received $3 million from Vu through 10 or so transfers to his daughter.

Son offered to give more than VND500 million ($21,510) to the police department to "offset the consequences."

Truong Minh Tuan, who served as Minister of Information and Communications from April 2016 to July 2018 and as Son's deputy earlier, has been investigated on similar charges.

Tuan also received multiple calls and text messages from Vu to "create conditions to quickly finish the stake buying process," the investigation found.

Tuan received $200,000 from Vu as the direct signatory of the decision taken by the information ministry to approve of the acquisition.

Tuan, who had already used the money, offered authorities VND2.12 billion ($93,200) to "offset the consequences."

Government inspectors have concluded that the deal had violated public investment laws and caused an estimated loss of about VND7 trillion ($307 million) to the state budget.

Son and Tuan were arrested in February.

Investigation has implicated 11 other people for violating regulations in management and use of public capital in the case, including the company's former CEO Cao Duy Hai and former board chairman Le Nam Tra.

Four deputy CEOs and a board member of the state telco were arrested last week.

The MobiFone is one major case in the corruption crackdown spearheaded by Party General Secretary and President Nguyen Phu Trong. The campaign has seen scores of officials and top businesspeople arrested and sent to jail in recent years. Trong has said that there will be no let up in the anti-corruption drive.

 
 
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