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Khanh Hoa ex-chairmen detained for alleged land irregularities

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HCMC – Khanh Hoa Province’s police on June 8 detained former provincial chairmen Nguyen Chien Thang and Le Duc Vinh for allegedly violating land management regulations.

Thang was serving as the province’s chairman from 2011 to 2016 and Vinh as former deputy secretary of the Khanh Hoa Party Committee from 2015 to 2020 and provincial chairman from 2016 to 2021, the local media reported.

Criminal charges were also filed against the former director of the provincial Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Le Mong Diep.

The trio’s alleged violations are related to the execution of two projects in the Chin Khuc Mountain: the Cuu Long Son Tu spiritual and ecotourism site and the Vinh Trung villa compound. Khanh Hoa Production and Construction Co., Ltd was the investor of both projects.

The Cuu Long Son Tu spiritual and ecotourism site was approved in 2009, and covered more than 513.5 hectares of forest land on the Chin Khuc Mountain which overlooks Nha Trang City.

Most of the land would be used for afforestation and the land for Buddha statues and spiritual facilities would be 3.52 hectares, which was later adjusted up to 5.25 hectares.

However, in a decision signed by Thang on October 25, 2015, the project also included homes and there was 7,500 square meters of residential land in the mountain although the forest land had not been converted into residential land at the time.

In addition, the 1/500 planning, environmental impact assessment report and design for the project had yet to be worked out but in 2019, the investor cleared 44 hectares of land on the mountain.

Similarly, the Vinh Trung villa project originated from the Vinh Trung afforestation and ecotourism project, with the Khanh Hoa government giving approval in September 2008. However, on September 22, 2011, the investment certificate was issued for the project and Vinh, who was serving as Khanh Hoa’s vice chairman at the time, allowed the renaming of the project to Vinh Trung villa and ecotourism project. The project would cover over 29 hectares of land.

On July 2, 2018, Vinh, vice chairman of the province at the time, signed a decision approving the investment in the project, which was renamed as the Vinh Trung villa project. Accordingly, housing and trade service facilities were planned to be executed on 19.65 hectares of land.

Thus, an afforestation project was converted into an urban area development project, using the forest land, which went against the law.

In addition, according to the Ministry of Construction, as of August 2019, the construction license for the project had yet to be issued but the investor had developed some components, which were also not in line with the regulations.

Thang and Vinh directed the execution of the two projects, including issuing directives to hand over the forest land for housing and trade service development.

Meanwhile, Diep must take responsibility for making proposals to the municipal government to issue illegal decisions on the planning, handover and use of land for the two projects.

According to a master plan to develop Nha Trang City in Khanh Hoa Province by 2025 approved by the prime minister in 2012, no urban area development projects would be allowed in the Chin Khuc Mountain area.

Land on the mountain is used for afforestation but the Khanh Hoa government had licensed eight projects on the mountain by 2019, including two villa projects, two afforestation and ecotourism projects, an urban area, a cemetery park, a residential area expansion project and a farm.

Today, June 9, Thang was also charged with violating the regulations on the management of a land lot at 1 Tran Hung Dao Street in Nha Trang City, where the Khanh Hoa Political Academy had been headquartered.

In 2014, Thang signed a document allowing Long An Province-based Thanh Yen JSC to execute the Khanh Hoa Political Academy project under the build-transfer model with an investment of VND149 billion in Nha Trang’s outlying area. The 7,400-square-meter site at 1 Tran Hung Dao Street would be handed over to the company as payment.

The land lot was planned for trade and service purposes but Thang directed the relevant departments and agencies to consider most of it as residential land. The land was later handed over to Thanh Yen JSC to execute a trade-service-healthcare-office-hotel-apartment complex, called Nha Trang Center 2, which was later renamed as Nha Trang Gold Coast. Thang’s directive showed signs of going against the regulations on land planning and use.

The Khanh Hoa Police Department on May 20 detained and prosecuted former Khanh Hoa Vice Chairman Dao Cong Thien and Vo Tan Thai, former director of the municipal Department of Natural Resources and Environment, for their alleged involvement in the case.

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