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Four senior HCM City officials charged with land management violations

Update: December, 09/2018 - 06:00
Nguyễn Thành Tài, former vice chairman of the HCM City People’s Committee. — Handout photo from the Ministry of Public Security
Viet Nam News

HCM CITY — The former vice chairman of HCM City was detained on Saturday for alleged violations in his handling of a State-owned 5000sq.m. prime land lot in the city’s downtown district.

Over the weekend, the investigation unit of the Ministry of Public Security started legal proceedings against Nguyễn Thành Tài, 66, who served as vice chairman and then permanent vice chairman of the HCM City People’s Committee in the 2001-10 and 2010-15 periods.

Police announced that Tài, together with three other senior officials of HCM City’s Natural Resources and Environment Department – Nguyễn Hoài Nam, 53, Secretary of the District 2 Party Committee and former head of the department’s land management office; Trương Văn Út, 48, former deputy head of the land management office; and Đào Anh Kiệt, 61, the department’s former director – were charged with “violations of regulations on management and use of State assets, causing losses and wastefulness.”

Three of the accused – Tài, Kiệt and Út – were detained, while Nam faced home detention.

Kiệt and Út were previously detained and investigated for mismanagement of land and State assets regarding the controversial land lots on Hai Bà Trưng Street and the 15 Thi Sách Project, both in District 1.

Switching hands

The much sought-after 5,000 sq.m. lot at numbers 8 to 12 Lê Duẩn Street, facing three major streets in the centre of District 1, was State-owned land originally meant to be rented by four companies under the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) in 2007.

The ministry reportedly asked HCM City authorities to buy the land but its proposal was rejected.

Then the HCM City People’s Committee decided that a five-star hotel and a mall would be built at the location instead. In 2009, then–vice chairman Tài tasked the city’s planning department with selecting “reputable and experienced hospitality investors” to implement the plan.

In 2010, the city approved of a plan to establish a joint stock company, Lavenue, with 50 per cent capital contribution from the HCM City’s State-run House Trade Management Ltd, with the rest divided between the four companies under the MoIT.

However, these State-owned shareholders quickly sold 80 per cent of the land’s ownership to private partners for a profit.

In 2011, Tài reportedly signed the decision green-lighting Lavenue’s use of the lot for 50 years at a price of VNĐ3.5 million per sq.m per year, a small fraction of the market rate of VNĐ400 million given the land’s visible location in the busy downtown district, according to the Government Inspectorate.

The Government Inspectorate concluded that the management of the land was riddled with malfeasances ranging from failure to conduct open bidding to leasing the land without the input from the municipal People’s Committee and People’s Council as well as approving of investment from financially inadequate companies.

The Government Inspectorate noted there are signs pointing to deliberate violations of State regulations, with the direct and prime responsibility falling on Nguyễn Thành Tài.

It has also proposed that the Government reclaim of the lots on Lê Duẩn Street and hold a proper public bidding. — VNS

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