Former naval commander jailed for land management negligence

By Bao Ha   May 21, 2020 | 06:21 am PT
Former naval commander jailed for land management negligence
Nguyen Van Hien, former Commander of the Vietnamese Navy and former Deputy Minister of Defense, stands trial in Hanoi, May 18, 2020. Photo courtesy of Hanoi Military Court.
A Hanoi military court sentenced a former commander of the Vietnamese Navy to four years in jail Thursday for negligence in naval land management.

The court said the actions of Nguyen Van Hien, former Commander of the Vietnamese Navy and former Deputy Minister of Defense, had severely dented the image of high-ranking military officials.

In other sentences, the court jailed Bui Nhu Thiem, former head of the navy’s economy department, for nine years; Bui Van Nga, former director of the navy’s Hai Thanh Company, for eight years; Doan Manh Thao, former head of the navy’s finance department, for seven years; and Tran Trong Tuan, former senior colonel and deputy director of Hai Thanh Company, for four years.

They were found guilty of breaking land management regulations.

Dinh Ngoc He, deputy general director of the defense ministry's Thai Son Corporation, was sentenced to 20 years in jail and fined VND80 million ($3,400).

Since He was already sentenced in 2018 to 12 years in jail, he will serve a combined 30 years, under Vietnamese law, which fixes a maximum of 30 years for multiple sentences other than life imprisonment.

Pham Van Diet, former deputy general director of the Duc Binh Company, was sentenced to 15 years and fined VND60 million ($2,570).

Vu Thi Hoan, former director of the Yen Khanh Company, was sentenced to seven years and fined VND20 million ($860).

All three corporate honchos were found guilty of obtaining property by fraud.

According to investigators, three land lots at 2, 7-9 and 9-11 Ton Duc Thang Street in HCMC center with a total area of 7,300 square meters was military land managed by the navy.

On March 13, 2006, the navy decided to merge the three land lots and Hai Thanh Company was assigned to work with businesses that were renting the land to complete the task.

In October that year, the navy got the nod from HCMC authorities to use the money previously earned as land use fees from businesses for site clearance and investing in facilities for naval units.

But Thiem, Nga and Thao intervened to convert the purpose of using the three land lots into commercial land, which was against land management regulations.

In July 2006, while no proposal had been submitted to the defense ministry for adjusting the land use plan, the three officials proposed that the navy signs joint-venture contracts to build office buildings and lease them out for 45-49 years at a flat rate at $4.5-5 per month per square meter.

Prosecutors said that as Commander of the Vietnamese Navy, Hien did not check this deal carefully and showed a lack of responsibility in managing military land.

As a result, he approved proposals by his subordinates that went against the law. He himself signed many documents suggesting the change in land use to the ministry and related agencies, and to use the land for constructing and leasing office buildings.

Furthermore, after transferring the right to sign future contracts related to those land lots to the director of Hai Thanh Company, Hien failed to keep an eye on the process.

The mismanagement allowed partners of Hai Thanh to use the land use right certificates as collateral. They even changed the business type and transferred the land to a third party.

All these misdeeds caused the navy to lose the land use rights over its property for 49 years, resulting in a loss of VND939 billion ($40.3 million) to the state exchequer.

In his final statement on Thursday afternoon, Hien, 65, said the case was "very painful" and he was responsible for not supervising the land transfer properly.

He said he did not intend to earn any personal gains from the violation. He expressed embarrassment and offered apology to military forces.

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