HCMC gov’t in hot seat for violations in selling golden public land

By Trung Son   May 25, 2018 | 11:41 pm PT
HCMC gov’t in hot seat for violations in selling golden public land
The land lot of nearly 6,000 square yards on Le Duan Street in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Nhu Quynh
Inspectors said the transfer of a lot on downtown Le Duan Street caused million-dollar losses.

Government inspectors have ordered Ho Chi Minh City to revoke a piece of public land at a prime location, saying violations in the transaction had caused million-dollar losses to the state budget.

The land lot of nearly 5,000 square meters (nearly 6,000 square yards) at 8-12 Le Duan Street in District 1 was designated to be developed into a five-star hotel and commercial center complex in 2007.

But the city officials had condoned misconducts during the execution of the plan, said the Government Inspectorate.

Inspectors said HCMC authorities should have carried out a bidding process to select a prestigious and experienced investor, but they instead formed a joint stock company in 2010 to carry out the project, following requests from the Ministry of Industry and Trade, whose units were renting the lot.

The Ho Chi Minh City Housing Management and Trading Company held a 50 percent share in this new company, Lavenue Investment, and the trade ministry’s units the rest. After two months, these state-owned members sold 80 percent of their shares at Lavenue to two private companies, Hoa Thang Nam and Kinh Do Investment Company.

In June 2011, Lavenue received the city government’s permission to develop a high-end hotel at the lot, by paying the city nearly VND700 billion ($30.6 million). No construction has taken place for years and the lot is now used for parking cars.

The state inspectors said the transaction showed “special favor” to the private companies. It had violated Vietnam’s laws on bidding, public asset management, as well as regulations on land use, public land prices and public fund management.

They held Nguyen Thanh Tai, the city’s vice chairman between 2011 and 2015, mainly responsible.

Nguyen Thi Thu Thuy, director of the city’s housing management company in 2010 and 2011, should also take responsibility, as well as the city’s financial and land management officials, they said.

The lot, which stands in the heart of the city, not far from the iconic buildings such as the Central Post Office, the Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Independence Palace, has “special value,” the inspectors said.

The use of public land in HCMC, Vietnam’s largest metropolis and usually considered its commercial kingdom, has been under scrutiny.

Tat Thanh Cang, deputy chief of the city's Party unit, is facing disciplinary actions after inspectors found he had allowed a company under the Party unit to sell a 32-hectare (80-acre) plot of public land in Nha Be District for just VND419 billion ($18.4 million), only a fifth of its market price. The contract was ordered to be terminated in April.

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