Vietnam dismisses senior HCMC Party official for land deal violations

By Hoang Thuy   December 26, 2018 | 05:14 am PT
Vietnam dismisses senior HCMC Party official for land deal violations
Tat Thanh Cang, seen here in a photo captured in March 2018, has lost his post as deputy chief of Ho Chi Minh City's Communist Party unit for violations in land management. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nguyen
Tat Thanh Cang, 47, has been dismissed from several positions including deputy Party chief of Ho Chi Minh City.

He is among several city leaders who have lost their positions for involvement in murky land deals. He has been removed as member of the 12th Party Central Committee and the HCMC Party unit's standing committee for the 2015-2020 tenure.

The disciplinary action was handed out Tuesday at the ninth plenum of the 12th Party Central Committee in Hanoi.

The Central Inspection Committee, top Party watchdog, had concluded in November and early December that Cang had committed "serious violations."

He had violated the principle of democratic centralism, working regulations, as well as state regulations on managing and using assets of state-owned companies, the committee said.

Cang was held responsible for transferring land belonging to the Party unit, causing huge losses, and illegally approving a million-dollar property investment at the new urban area Thu Thiem.

He failed to ensure that the unit's working procedures and principles were followed, and showed a lack of supervision in the implementation of his decisions.

President and General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong told the Tuesday meeting that Cang’s case was a profound lesson that should be learnt by "all of us."

In May last year, the city’s inspectors had announced the results of their investigation into Cang’s decision to let HCMC Party unit's Tan Thuan Investment and Construction Company sell a 32-hectare (80-acre) riverside plot of public land in Nha Be District for just VND419 billion ($18.4 million).

Inspectors said that it was not within Cang’s authority to approve the sale, so the approval itself violated regulations. By not reporting the deal to the Party unit's standing committee before approving the sale, he also risked causing huge losses to the unit.

The Tan Thuan Company first signed a contract to transfer the land in Nha Be District on the banks of the Saigon River to property firm Quoc Cuong Gia Lai in June 2017.

Concerns that the transaction was not transparent rose 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 the municipal Department of Natural Resources and Environment reevaluated the land.

The department put the land's value at over VND574 billion, estimating the loss at over VND150 billion.

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

Thu Thiem investment

Investigations also found that while serving as the city's Director of Transport Department, Cang had in 2013 approved a VND12.2 trillion ($524 million) investment by property giant Dai Quang Minh to build four main roads in the Thu Thiem area, designated to be HCMC's new trade center.

In exchange for the funds it agreed to commit, the company was granted 79 hectares to develop commercial and residential projects in the area.

But Cang had no power to approve investments of that scale. Regulations at the time only allowed municipal administrations to approve projects worth up to VND1.5 trillion.

Vietnam has been cracking down strongly on violations by both government and Party officials. Many high ranking officials including top leaders of Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang, two of the country's largest cities, are among the people who have been found guilty and punished.

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

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