Nguyễn Thành Tài, former vice chairman of the HCM City People’s Committee, in court on Wednesday on the opening day of his trial for “violation of regulations on management and use of State assets, causing losses and wastefulness”. — VNA/VNS Photo Hoàng Tuyết
HCM CITY — The trial of Nguyễn Thành Tài, former vice chairman of the HCM City People’s Committee, and four others for “violation of regulations on management and use of State assets, causing losses and wastefulness” opened on Wednesday at the HCM City People’s Court.
Tài, 68, vice chairman from 2011 to 2015, and the others, three of them city officials, are charged with wrongdoing in the sale of public lands in a prime location resulting in a loss of VNĐ1.927 trillion (US$83 million) to the treasury, which potentially carries a jail sentence of up to 20 years.
Tài’s fellows accused are Nguyễn Hoài Nam, former secretary of the District 2 Party unit, Đào Anh Kiệt, former director of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment, Trương Văn Út, former deputy head of the department’s land management division, and Lê Thị Thanh Thuý, president of Mayflower Investment Company Ltd and Lavenue Investment JSC.
In 2018 government auditors concluded that he was mainly responsible for the city’s decision to lease out a land lot at 8-12 Lê Duẩn Street in District 1 without competitive bidding, causing losses worth millions of dollars to the city.
But the 4,896sq.m plot, which fronts three major streets, had for long been earmarked for a five-star hotel and shopping mall.
In 2007 the Government had ordered its auctioning for the purpose, saying explicitly “the investor implementing the project must be capable and experienced in the hotel sector.”
However, Tài gave approval for the HCM City Housing Management Company to set up a joint venture with four companies owned by the Ministry of Industry and Trade to develop the project.
“The project was originally scheduled to begin in 2007, but this was extended to 2011,” according to Tài.
The HCM City Housing Management Company was supposed to contribute 50 per cent of the capital and the four ministry companies the rest, but the former, claiming it did not have enough money, only contributed 20 per cent while the remaining 30 per cent was brought in by the Mayflower Investment Company Ltd.
After that a company called Lavenue Investment JSC was established as a joint venture between all the companies to carry out the project, with the accused Lê Thị Thanh Thuý as its chairwoman.
Tài admitted in court he knew he was flouting the law and the Government’s instruction to auction the land.
“In the context of the economic recession at that time, which caused the real estate market to slump, an auction was not feasible,” he claimed.
The trial will go on until September 21. — VNS