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Top officials under fire as Vietnam corruption crackdown intensifies

By Viet Tuan, Minh Son   June 30, 2018 | 05:24 am PT
Top officials under fire as Vietnam corruption crackdown intensifies
Colonel General Phuong Minh Hoa (L) and Lieutenant General Nguyen Van Thanh are facing punishment for violations in management of military land. Photo acquired by VnExpress
Officials from all branches of Party and government face disciplinary action and dismissal.

Vietnam’s intensifying corruption crackdown is likely to claim more scalps with tough action recommended against high-ranking officials from several ministries, departments and firms.

The Central Inspection Committee, the top watchdog of the ruling Communist Party, is calling for disciplinary actions against many officials following a meeting in Hanoi on Wednesday and Thursday.

Colonel General Phuong Minh Hoa and Lieutenant General Nguyen Van Thanh are being held responsible for violations at the Air Force's Party unit in management of defense land. In Vietnam, colonel general is the second highest military rank after general, then comes lieutenant general.

Hoa and Thanh, both former Party leaders of Vietnam's Air Force, were found to have committed "serious" violations between 2010 and 2015. Hoa directly signed papers to give up military land illegally for economic purposess while Thanh approved for some unqualified people to benefit from the military's housing projects, inspection found.

The Air Force's Party unit is accused of negligence and violating the principles of democratic centralism in its work.

MobiFone scandal

At the same meeting, the Party's inspection committee also ordered punishment against Truong Minh Tuan, Minister of Information and Communications, and his predecessor Nguyen Bac Son, for an illegal television acquisition which was found to have caused big loss to the state budget.

Son had approved state-owned MobiFone's acquision without the prime minister's approval, while Tuan, then his deputy, had signed the decision to approve the deal as also several other documents that did not adhere to the nation’s laws.

Pham Dinh Trong, head of the business management department under the ministry, and Le Nam Tra, former board chairman of MobiFone, was expelled from the Party, the meeting heard.

Le Nam Tra, former board chairman of MobiFone. Photo by VnExpress

Le Nam Tra, former board chairman of MobiFone. Photo by VnExpress

Cao Duy Hai, General Director of MobiFone, the third largest telecom firm in Vietnam, was stripped of all current titles within the Party, while Pham Hong Hai, vice minister of information, received an official rebuke. Vietnam's Party has four modes of punishment for misconduct by official members: reprimand, warning, demotion and expulsion.

MobiFone, the country's third largest telco, had made headlines since early 2016 when it announced it was breaking into the pay TV market with the acquisition of a 95 percent stake in Audio Visual Global JSC, better known as AVG.

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

More expulsion

The Party also announced to expel Tran Bac Ha, former chairman of BIDV, less than a month after he was found responsible for "very serious" violations linked to a massive fraud case at Vietnam Construction Bank (VNCB).

Tran Bac Ha, former board chairman of BIDV. Photo by VnExpress

Tran Bac Ha, former board chairman of BIDV. Photo by VnExpress

Investigators found Ha violated credit procedures and regulations in approving a number of loans, investments and debt management decisions. He enabled 12 companies owned by Pham Cong Danh, former chairman of VNCB, to borrow VND4.7 trillion ($206 million) from BIDV.

While BIDV eventually managed to retrieve this money, the loans had helped Danh steal over VND9 trillion from VNCB. At a trial in 2016, Danh was sentenced to 30 years in prison, the maximum jail term allowed by Vietnam's Penal Code, for causing this loss.

Doan Anh Sang, deputy general director of BIDV, was stripped of all his current titles within the Party for violations in the case, and Tran Luc Lang, another deputy, received an official warning.

Regarding another huge business loss, Tran Viet Thang, head of the state cement giant Vicem, is facing punishment for violations leading to losses of trillions of dong. By the end of 2016, the company's units were VND4 trillion ($175.2 million) in debt, the Party's inspectors said.

The series of dismissals and warnings are adding heat to Vietnam's corruption crackdown spearheaded by Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong.

Scores of high-rank officials and businesspeople have been put under probe or sent to jail over the past couple years. Trong, 74, has repeatedly said that the corruption fight would keep up momentum and continue moving forward, sparing no one.

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