HCMC's deputy leader in hot water for approving cheap public land sale

By Thien Ngon   May 6, 2018 | 07:41 am PT
HCMC's deputy leader in hot water for approving cheap public land sale
Part of the land that state-owned Tan Thuan Company sells to property developer Quoc Cuong Gia Lai. Photo by VnExpress/Tuyet Nguyen
He allegedly enabled a state-owned company to sell a riverside piece for only a fifth of its market price.

A top official of Ho Chi Minh City is facing disciplinary actions after the city's inspectors on Sunday concluded that he was responsible for approving an "intransparent" public land sale.

Tat Thanh Cang, deputy chief of the city's Party unit, is required to explain himself for allowing the Party unit's Tan Thuan Investment and Construction Company to sell a 32-hectare (80-acre) plot of public land in Nha Be District for just VND419 billion ($18.4 million).

At the time the deal was approved, the position of the city's Party chief was vacant as Dinh La Thang had just been fired from the post for violations at PetroVietnam when he was at the helm of the state giant in the past, which have subsequently given him long jail sentences. Cang was therefore responsible for the approval of the deal as acting chief of the Party unit.

The Party unit's standing committee also suspended Tan Thuan Company's general director Tran Cong Thien and requested inspections into all of the company's projects.

According to inspectors, Tan Thuan Company did not prioritize the interests of the city's Party unit when it transferred the highly valuable public land to a private firm. The contract for the transaction was found to have violated land management and land use regulations.

The Party unit's office was also found to have failed in its responsibility as representative of the land's owner, inspectors said.

The standing committee concluded that the violations in this case is "serious" but has found no sign that any individual benefited from the violations.

Tan Thuan Company first signed a contract to transfer the plot of public land in Nha Be District, which lies by the Saigon River, to property firm Quoc Cuong Gia Lai last June.

Concerns that the transaction was "intransparent", however, arose as the land was sold at an unusually low price of VND419 billion, while its market price was estimated to be up to VND2 trillion.

The Party unit's leaders last December 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 and concluded that Tan Thuan Company had caused losses of over VND150 billion.

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

Vietnam has been going strong on its crackdown against officials' violations, seeing the fall of many high-rank officials including both Party chiefs of Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang, two of the country's largest cities, last year.

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

Ho Chi Minh City authorities have taken disciplinary actions against several officials recently.

In March, the city's government officially rebuked Le Tan Hung, general director of the state-owned Saigon Agriculture Company for accounting violations. Hung is younger brother of the city's former Party chief Le Thanh Hai.

Le Truong Hai Hieu, Hai's son who is chairman and deputy Party chief of District 12, also received a rebuke from the district's Party unit last month for having a baby out of wedlock.

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