Vietnam’s former information ministers arrested in TV firm acquisition case

By Staff reporters   February 23, 2019 | 04:57 am PT
Vietnam’s former information ministers arrested in TV firm acquisition case
Former information ministers Nguyen Bac Son (L) and Truong Minh Tuan.
Nguyen Bac Son and Truong Minh Tuan were arrested Saturday for violations related to management and use of public capital.

Son, who was Minister of Information and Communications from 2011 to 2016, was retroactively dismissed last October. He had earlier been dismissed from his positions as member of the 11th Party Central Committee and Secretary of the ministry's Party unit for the term 2011-2016.

Nguyen Bac Son directly approved the acquisition of private pay TV firm AVG by the state-owned MobiFone against regulations and asked subordinates to sign documents in contravention of regulations, the Politburo said.

Tuan, information minister from 2016 to 2018, was relieved from his position as Secretary of the ministry's Party unit by the Politburo, the Party's decision-making body, and was suspended by late President Tran Dai Quang, both last July. He was then dismissed from his position as a minister in a secret ballot by the National Assembly last October.

As a deputy information minister from 2011 to 2016, Tuan had signed a decision to approve the illegal AVG acquisition without the Prime Minister’s approval.

Tuan’s violations were "incredibly severe," the Politburo stated.

Former CEO of military-run telecom giant Viettel, Nguyen Manh Hung, was appointed the new information minister after Tuan’s suspension last October.

MobiFone, the country's third largest telecommunications firm, had 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 government inspectors concluded that the deal had violated public investment laws and caused an estimated loss of about VND7 trillion ($307 million) to the state budget.

Several other officials involved in the MobiFone case were also arrested and are facing criminal charges, including Cao Duy Hai, former general director of MobiFone, Pham Thi Phuong Anh, former deputy general director, Le Nam Tra, 57, former chairman and general director, and Pham Dinh Trong, 48, former head of the Department of Enterprise Management under the information ministry.

An ongoing corruption crackdown spearheaded by Party General Secretary and President Nguyen Phu Trong has seen scores of officials and top businesspeople arrested or sent to jail in recent years. Trong has said that there will be no let up in the anti-corruption drive.

Vietnam's Communist Party has four modes of punishment for misconduct by official members: reprimand, warning, demotion and expulsion.

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