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Former defense deputy minister jailed for four years for land mismanagement
The Saigon Times
Friday,  May 22, 2020,21:07 (GMT+7)

Former defense deputy minister jailed for four years for land mismanagement

The Saigon Times

Nguyen Van Hien, who served as Commander of the Vietnamese Naval Force and Deputy Minister of National Defense, answers questions at his trial in May 2020 – PHOTO: TNO

HCMC – Former Deputy Minister of National Defense Nguyen Van Hien was sentenced to four years in prison for gross negligence that led to the murky transfers of three naval plots of land in downtown HCMC to private investors.

After four days of trial and deliberations, the Military Court of the Vietnam People’s Navy on Thursday handed down sentences to the 66-year-old ex-admiral Hien, former Commander of the Naval Force, and seven other individuals.

The panel of judges stated that the former commander had played a leading role in the management of land under the Naval Force.

However, he failed to fulfill his tasks, was lax in inspections of his subordinates and approved their proposals without verifying their legality.

Consequently, the three prime plots of land, covering more than 6,700 square meters at No.2, 7-9 and 9-11 Ton Duc Thang Street in District 1, were illegally converted to economic use for a period of up to 49 years to develop office buildings for lease.

Though he set up a team to inspect the economic projects, including the three land plots, he neither stressed the need for the completion of legal procedures nor suspended work on the illegal projects.

“Your misdeeds made the Naval Force lose the land use rights to the three land plots for a long time, causing losses of more than VND939 billion (US$40.3 million) in land-use fees,” noted the panel of judges, as quoted by Thanh Nien newspaper.

They stressed he had damaged the prestige of high-ranking naval officials.

In his final statement on Thursday afternoon, Hien claimed the case was “very painful,” admitting his failure in not supervising the land transfer efficiently.

He stressed he did not intend to benefit from the irregularity and expressed embarrassment, offering apologies to the military forces.

Four former senior colonels who were subordinates of Hien were found guilty of irregularities in land management.

The court imprisoned Bui Nhu Thiem, former head of the navy’s economy department, for nine years, and Bui Van Nga, former director of the navy’s Hai Thanh Service and Sea-Island Tourism Company, for eight years.

Also, Doan Manh Thao, former head of the navy’s finance department, got seven years behind bars, while Tran Trong Tuan, deputy director of Hai Thanh Company, was sentenced to four years.

The panel of judges stated that the four senior military officials had advised their superiors to convert land zoned for military purposes to economic use, which violated the Land Law.

Also, they proposed the lease of land through joint ventures and capital contribution in exchange for land use rights, leading to the infringement of the State’s land management rights.

However, according to the court, they did so without selfish motives, made truthful declarations and had many achievements on their record while in office.

Bald Ut sentenced to 20 years

Dinh Ngoc He, alias Bald Ut, former deputy general director of Thai Son Group, under the Ministry of National Defense, attends his second trial in May 2020 – PHOTO: TNO

The court convicted former colonel Dinh Ngoc He, alias Bald Ut, who served as deputy general director of Thai Son Group and chairman and general director of Thai Son Development and Investment JSC, both under the Ministry of National Defense, on asset misappropriation, sentencing him to 20 years in jail.

Since the 49-year-old Ut was already sentenced in 2018 to 12 years in prison for abusing his power and using fake documents to defraud agencies and organizations, he will serve a combined 30 years, the maximum term imposed by Vietnamese law for multiple sentences other than life imprisonment.

Pham Van Diet, former general director of Duc Binh Group, and Ut’s 35-year-old niece, Vu Thi Hoan, former managing director of Yen Khanh Service Trading Production Co., Ltd, were sentenced to 15 years and seven years in prison, respectively, for the same charge as Ut.

Ut pleaded not guilty, but the panel of judges took the testimonies of Diet, Hoan and other witnesses as well as documentary evidence into account and found there was sufficient grounds to prove that he was the mastermind behind the establishment and operations of Yen Khanh Company.

In 2006, Ut knew the Naval Force had a policy to convert several public plots of land in HCMC to those zoned for economic purposes.

Therefore, he instructed his niece, Hoan, to sign a proposal seeking investment cooperation on the plot of land at No.7-9 Ton Duc Thang Street.

The proposal included fraudulent statements about her company’s financial capacity and manpower as well as the projects the company was carrying out.

After the signing of the contract, Ut asked Diet and Hoan to work with the Naval Force’s Hai Thanh Service and Sea-Island Tourism Company to change the plot’s use from defense to economic purposes.

Later, Ut asked Diet to put up the land as collateral at the Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV) to take out loans worth VND717 billion (US$30.7 million) for his companies.

The panel of judges said the trio had acted deceitfully to take control of the plot of land, which was valued at over VND525 billion (US$22.5 million) in 2010.

The judges noted that the plots of land at No.2 and 9-11 Ton Duc Thang Street were unlawfully offered for lease, so the companies in charge, Canh Hung Hai Thanh Corporation and Mai Thanh Service Co., Ltd, were obliged to return them to the Naval Force.

The same move applied to No.7-9. The court rejected the BIDV’s request not to revoke the land use rights certificate of the plot, to safeguard the rights and interests of the bank.

However, according to the court, the capital contribution contract through the exchange of the land use rights between Hai Thanh Co. and Yen Khanh Co. had not taken effect due to the violation of the prohibition clause.

Hai Thanh Co. was also told to pay VND939 billion (US$40.3 million) in land use rights fees for the three plots to the State budget.

The panel of judges also suggested the HCMC government identify and penalize those responsible for prompting the municipal finance department to claim the company had fulfilled its tax payment obligations, though it had not done so.

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