Fugitive former deputy minister wanted for state assets mismanagement
The Ministry of Public Security last Friday stated that the former deputy minister of industry and trade Thoa, 60, was placed under investigation for “violating regulations on management and use of state assets, causing loss and waste.”
However, because Thoa has fled overseas and the investigation time-frame has expired, the police have decided to suspend the investigation until she is arrested, the ministry said on Monday, without giving further details.
Also Friday, an investigation began into the role of Thoa’s former boss, the former minister of industry and trade, Vu Huy Hoang, on the same charges.
Eight other people are also being investigated as Hoang’s accomplices in violating land management regulations.
Hoang and Thoa’s wrongdoings were unearthed in November 2018 when authorities were investigating former vice chairman of Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee Nguyen Huu Tin.
According to the investigators, Thoa knew in 2016 that a land plot of 6,000 square meters at 2-4-6 Hai Ba Trung Street in downtown Ho Chi Minh City’s District 1 was arranged to be assigned to Vietnam’s largest brewery Sabeco, under the Ministry of Industry and Trade, for it to invest and build a 6-star hotel and convention center.
While both Thao and Hoang knew that Sabeco was not allowed to establish a new entity to use the land allotted to it, she got the former minister to permit the establishment of the Sabeco Pearl Company.
Based on Hoang’s approval and Thoa’s direction, Phan Dang Tuat, board chairman and head of the state capital management board at Sabeco, signed a letter to the HCMC People’s Committee requesting approval for Sabeco Pearl to be the owner of the project.
He also asked HCMC authorities to let Sabeco Pearl perform financial obligations and for Sabeco to transfer its land use right to the newly formed joint venture.
Thoa took advantage of the government’s capital divestment policy and under Hoang’s direction, signed two documents for Sabeco to divest its 26 percent stake at Sabeco Pearl and approved the starting auction price at VND13,247 ($0.5) a share. Hoang himself also directed the divestment procedure and auction price approval to be sped up.
These actions led officials at departments at HCMC People’s Committee to advise the city’s former vice chairman Nguyen Huu Tin to approve leasing of the prime land to Sabeco Pearl in contravention of regulations, leading to the land becoming a private property after some illegal transfers.
The Me Linh Square Investment Joint Stock Company, which used to be Sabeco Pearl, a wholly private company, is currently the owner of the plot.
Authorities have concluded that the actions of Hoang, Thoa and their accomplices have caused “extremely large” consequences, losses and wastes to the government of over VND3.8 trillion ($165 million).
Vu Huy Hoang at a meeting when he is Minister of Industry and Trade. Photo by VnExpress/Xuan Hoa.
Hoang only admitted his responsibility as the head of the industry ministry but maintained that the main responsibility is this case was that of Thoa and Sabeco. He also said it was under the jurisdiction of the HCMC People’s Committee that Sabeco Pearl was approved to the project investor and rent the land.
The systematic, deliberate actions of Vu Huy Hoang took place for a long time, violating the law as well as provisions of the party and the state on the management and use of state assets, causing “extremely large damage to the state, authorities stated in a conclusion released Monday.
Thoa was formerly general director of Dien Quang Lamp, a state-owned firm that was equitized in 2005. She was also a member of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (VCCI) executive committee, and as vice president of the Vietnam Glass Association.
In May 2010, she was appointed deputy industry minister and was assigned to oversee the light industry department (now the department of industry) as well as Sabeco.
Hoang was the industry minister from 2007 to 2016 and a part of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s Cabinet.
The land plot at 2-4-6 Hai Ba Trung Street in HCMC’s District 1. Photo by VnExpress/Trung Son
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