Former top naval officer faces trial for land violations

By Xuan Hoa   March 17, 2020 | 05:20 am PT
Former top naval officer faces trial for land violations
Former Vice Minister of National Defense and former commander of the Vietnamese Navy, Nguyen Van Hien. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nguyen.
A former Deputy Minister of National Defense and former commander of the Vietnamese Navy will be taken to court for negligence in naval land management.

Nguyen Van Hien, 66, has been charged with "lacking responsibility and causing serious consequences" in line with the Penal Code after his mismanagement caused the Vietnam People's Navy to lose three land lots worth more than $40 million.

The prosecution decision was taken after an investigation was launched into his culpability last October, when he was placed under house arrest.

Other officials who face trial in the same case are Bui Nhu Thiem, former head of the navy’s economy department, Doan Manh Thao, former head of the navy’s finance department, and Bui Van Nga, former director of the Navy’s Hai Thanh Company, which is based in the northern port city of Hai Phong. They  have been charged of "violating regulations on land management."

Former colonel Dinh Ngoc He, deputy general director of the defense ministry's Thai Son Corporation, will be tried for "appropriating property through fraud."

According to investigation, three land lots at 2, 7-9 and 9-11 Ton Duc Thang Street in Ho Chi Minh City 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 Ho Chi Minh City authorities to use all 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 ministry and related agencies to switch the land use purpose, 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 the Hai Thanh company, Hien failed to keep an eye on the process.

This mismanagement allowed partners of the Hai Thanh company 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 misdoings caused the navy to lose the land use rights over its property for 49 years and resulted in a loss of VND939 billion ($40.3 million) for the state.

Hien was retroactively dismissed as the Commander of Vietnam People's Navy by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc last September for "very serious" violations committed when he was the naval commander between 2004 and 2015. He had already been dismissed from all party positions in June last year.

Colonel He, meanwhile, is already serving 12 year jail term awarded in 2018.

"Little Baldy," as the former colonel was known, was convicted of "abusing power in the performance of official duties" and "using fake documents." He was also banned from taking any government position for four years after serving his jail term.

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