Former Saigon state-owned firm leaders arrested for land violations

By Quoc Thang   January 6, 2020 | 05:35 am PT
Former Saigon state-owned firm leaders arrested for land violations
Part of the land in Nha Be District that the state-owned Tan Thuan Company sells to private property developer Quoc Cuong Gia Lai. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran.
Tran Cong Thien and Nguyen Van Minh, ex-leaders of a firm under the HCMC Party Committee’s Office, were arrested Monday for land-related violations.

Thien, 55, former general director of the Tan Thuan Investment and Construction Company, and Minh, 63, former chairman of the company, are facing charges of violating regulations on the management and use of state-owned property that led to "losses or squander."

They are the first two individuals to be arrested following the investigation into the illicit transfer of a 32 hectare (80 acre) plot of public land in Nha Be District by the state-owned company to private property firm Quoc Cuong Gia Lai in June 2017.

Thien was held mainly responsible for directing and operating Tan Thuan Company while the serious violation was committed.

In July 2018, Thien was dismissed from all his positions in the HCMC Party Committee and the company. In March last year, he was expelled from the Communist Party. Meanwhile, Minh received a Party reprimand.

The Party has four modes of punishment for misconduct by official members: reprimand, warning, demotion and expulsion.

The Tan Thuan Company first signed a contract to transfer the plot of public land, which lies by the Saigon River, to Quoc Cuong Gia Lai in June 2017.

Concerns that the transaction was not transparent arose as the land was sold at an unusually low price of VND419 billion ($18.1 million), while its market price was estimated to be up to VND2 trillion ($86.3 million).

The HCMC Party Committee’s leaders in December 2017 ordered the transfer to be suspended for renegotiation after a reevaluation of the land by the municipal Department of Natural Resources and Environment.

In its reevaluation, the department put the land's value at over VND574 billion ($24.8 million), and also said that only 480 square meters of it was residential land, and the rest was agricultural land. It concluded that the Tan Thuan Company’s decision had caused losses of over VND150 billion ($6.5 million) to the state exchequer.

The contract was eventually ordered to be terminated in April last year, and the Party unit's leaders ordered an inspection into the failed deal.

Following the investigation, several city leaders have lost their positions for involvement in this murky land deal. In December 2018, Tat Thanh Cang, 47, was dismissed from several positions including deputy Party chief of HCMC.

In March last year, former deputy head of the HCMC Party Committee’s Office, Pham Van Thong, lost his Party titles.

Vietnam has been cracking down strongly on violations by both government and Party officials. Many high ranking officials including top leaders of Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang, two of the country's largest cities, are among those who have been found guilty and punished.

Communist Party General Secretary and President Nguyen Phu Trong said at a meeting in April last year that the country is determined to push ahead with more major corruption cases involving power abuse violations by top defense and police officials.

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