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Vietnam gov’t agencies on the mat in Mobifone TV deal

By Viet Tuan   September 14, 2018 | 07:00 pm PT
Vietnam gov’t agencies on the mat in Mobifone TV deal
Many officials and Mobifone executives have been held responsible for its illegal TV acquisition. Photo by VnExpress
Three ministries and the Government Office are under scrutiny for violations in an illegal acquisition by telco giant Mobifone.

The Central Inspection Commission of the Communist Party of Vietnam has named the Ministry of Planning and Investment, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Public Security and the Government Office as units involved in state-owned MobiFone's wrongful investment in private pay TV firm Audio Visual Global JSC (AVG), which caused million-dollar losses to the state budget.

According to the inspection committee, the investment ministry did not follow the Law on Investment when it approved the investment made by state-owned mobile operator MobiFone in private pay TV firm Audio Visual Global JSC (AVG), according to the Central Inspection Commission of the Communist Party of Vietnam.

And when the deal had already been completed, the ministry issued a statement pointing out possible problems in the acquisition, given the fact that MobiFone was on the way to being privatized.

The commission said the ministry had not been consistent and had acted irresponsibly.

The Ministry of Finance, meanwhile, was in charge of managing the deal’s execution, but failed to carry out a timely, comprehensive analysis or evaluation when MobiFone spent a huge sum to acquire AVG, the commission said.

The Ministry of Public Security is also culpable of wrongdoing related to the deal because it accepted a suggestion from the Ministry of Information and Communications to treat documents related to the MobiFone-AVG deal as “classified,” which was not appropriate.

The Party commission said the Office of the Government submitted an evaluation report to the Prime Minister without going through the required procedures.

All the four agencies should carry out a review and deal with staff found committing violations in this deal, the commission said.

MobiFone, the country's third largest telecom firm, made headlines early in 2016 when it announced it was breaking into the pay TV market with the acquisition of a 95 percent stake in AVG.

But the Government Inspectorate concluded that the deal, which had not been approved by the Prime Minister, had violated investment laws and caused an estimated loss of around VND7 trillion ($307 million) to the government.

In a report on the deal last March, inspectors said MobiFone had committed multiple violations in proposing the deal and in evaluating AVG.

Besides, the company had provided false and incomplete information and falsified AVG's financial status in its report to the information ministry on the deal, which resulted in MobiFone paying VND8.89 trillion instead of VND1.9 trillion.

Cao Duy Hai, 57, MobiFone CEO, was fired for his role in the illegal acquisition last month.

Le Nam Tra, 57, Mobifone’s former chairman and general director, and Pham Dinh Trong, 48, head of the information ministry’s department of enterprise management, were arrested in July and face charges for violations in managing public capital.

The biggest casualty in the case was Truong Minh Tuan, who lost his position as Minister of Information and Communication in July. Tuan had signed a decision to approve the AVG acquisition while serving as deputy information minister.

Nguyen Manh Hung, former CEO of military-owned telecom giant Viettel, is now the acting information minister, and his position is scheduled to be made official in October.

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