Top bosses of state telco detained in TV firm acquisition scam

By Ba Do, Viet Dung, Pham Du   August 27, 2019 | 09:49 am GMT+7
Top bosses of state telco detained in TV firm acquisition scam
MobiFone broke into the pay TV market with the acquisition of a 95 percent stake in AVG in January 2016. Photo by VnExpress.

Four deputy CEOs and a board member of state-owned telecom giant MobiFone have been arrested for alleged wrongdoing while acquiring pay TV firm AVG.

Nguyen Dang Nguyen, 43, Nguyen Bao Long, 43, Ho Tuan, 54, Nguyen Manh Hung, 50, and board member Phan Thi Hoa Mai will be questioned in connection with violations in the use of public funds causing serious consequences.

The Ministry of Public Security and Supreme People's Procuracy, the country's top prosecutors office, have yet to reveal details of the alleged wrongdoing.

The ministry merely said on Monday the arrests were part of its expanding investigation into corruption and mismanagement of funds at Vietnam’s third largest telecom firm and government agencies.

A car of Vietnams Supreme Peoples Procuracy arrives at the headquarters of MobiFone in Hanoi on Monday evening. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Du.

A car of Vietnam's Supreme People's Procuracy arrives at the headquarters of MobiFone in Hanoi on Monday evening. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Du.

In a case that has been in the headlines since 2016, the ministry had in April detained Pham Nhat Vu, chairman of private firm Audio Visual Global JSC (AVG), for giving bribes.

The suspected nexus came to light after MobiFone broke into the pay TV market with the acquisition of a 95 percent stake in AVG in January 2016.

Government inspectors later concluded that the deal had violated public investment laws and caused an estimated loss of about VND7 trillion ($307 million) to the government coffers.

Vu used to live and work in Eastern Europe before coming back to Vietnam in the 2000s. He started in real estate, and then began to build the pay TV business in 2004.

The VND1.8 trillion ($77 million) AVG was established in 2008 and began broadcasting in 2011.

Also in April the police began investigating former Ministers of Information and Communications Nguyen Bac Son and Truong Minh Tuan for possible graft in the AVG acquisition case.

They had been arrested in February in the same case for alleged violations related to the management and use of public funds.

Son, then information minister, personally approved the acquisition in violation of regulations and ordered subordinates to sign documents, investigators found.

Tuan, while serving as deputy information minister, had approved the acquisition without the prime minister’s approval.

The Politburo, the Communist Party's decision-making body, had labeled his violations as "incredibly severe."

Tuan became information minister in 2016 but was dismissed from his position in a secret ballot by the National Assembly last October.

Several other people involved in the AVG case were also arrested and are facing criminal charges, including MobiFone’s former general director Cao Duy Hai; former deputy general director Pham Thi Phuong Anh; former chairman and general director Le Nam Tra; and former head of the Ministry of Information and Communications’ department of enterprise management, Pham Dinh Trong.

An ongoing corruption crackdown spearheaded by Party General Secretary and President Nguyen Phu Trong has seen scores of officials and top businesspeople being arrested or imprisoned in recent years.

Trong has said that there would be no letup in the anti-corruption drive.

 
 
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