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Former Industry and Trade Minister, nine others face graft charges

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HCMC – Investigators at the Ministry of Public Security have completed an investigation and sent the case to prosecutors asking that former Minister of Industry and Trade Vu Huy Hoang and nine others be prosecuted on charges of graft.

They were involved in the handover of a 6,000 square-meter land lot at No. 2-4-6 Hai Ba Trung Street in District 1, HCMC, to the private sector, which amounted to the violation of regulations on the management and use of State assets, causing losses and wastefulness.

Hoang, 67, who headed the ministry between 2007 and 2016, and Phan Chi Dung, former head of the ministry’s Light Industry Department, were charged with breaking rules on the management and use of State assets, which led to losses and wastefulness.

Former Deputy Industry and Trade Minister Ho Thi Kim Thoa, who was banned from leaving her place of residence, has fled and is being pursued by the police.

The Ministry of Finance gave the land lot to the State-run Saigon Beer-Alcohol-Beverage Company (Sabeco) to build its headquarters and a trade, service and office center. However, Hoang allowed Sabeco and three corporate shareholders – Attland Corporation, Ha An Investment, Trade and Service JSC and Me Linh Invest JSC – to set up Sabeco Pearl Investment JSC to carry out the Saigon Me Linh Tower project on the land lot.

Under Hoang’s and Thoa’s directives, Phan Dang Tuat, the then board chairman of Sabeco, signed an official dispatch in 2015 asking the HCMC People’s Committee to allow Sabeco to transfer the land use rights on the land lot to Sabeco Pearl and allow the latter to become the investor of the project.

In mid-2016, Sabeco divested its entire stake in Sabeco Pearl as it sold more than 14 million shares worth some VND195 billion (US$8 million) to the founding shareholders. The State Audit of Vietnam said Sabeco transferred the land at a “artificially low price” as each share was sold at VND13,347.

At present, the land lot is owned 100% by privately invested Me Linh Square Investment Corporation, which was formerly Sabeco Pearl.

According to auditors, the land use value of the lot was VND1,075 billion in 2015, VND2,505 billion in 2016 and is currently VND3,816 billion. Investigators said Hoang and his accomplices have caused massive losses for the State.

The others implicated in the case and charged with breaking regulations on land management are:

– Nguyen Huu Tin, former HCMC vice chairman

– Dao Anh Kiet, former director of the HCMC Department of Natural Resources and Environment

– Truong Van Ut, deputy director of the Land Management Division under the HCMC Department of Natural Resources and Environment

– Lam Nguyen Khoi, former deputy director of the HCMC Department of Planning and Investment

– Le Van Thanh, deputy chief of the secretariat of the HCMC People’s Committee

– Le Quang Minh, former director of the Infrastructure Development Division under the HCMC Department of Planning and Investment

– Nguyen Thanh Chuong, head of the Urban Division under the HCMC People’s Committee Office

– Nguyen Lan Chau, a specialist at the Land Management Division under the HCMC Department of Natural Resources and Environment.

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