Vietnam's former chief government inspector lied and abused his position to accrue huge real estate holdings throughout southern Vietnam, the Communist Party inspectors announced on Friday.
In a public release, the Inspection Commission of the Party Central Committee chastised Tran Van Truyen, who served as head of the Government Inspectorate--essentially, Vietnam’s anti-corruption unit--between 2007 and 2011 for “not thinking carefully,” "lack of honesty" and “failing to provide a good example."
“His actions have inflamed negative public opinions across the society and tarnished his reputation and the Party's,” the release said.
Central Communist Party Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong called for the audit last July after local media published a string of reports about Truyen’s vast real estate portfolio.
Particular attention was paid to a pair of villas constructed from rare wood in Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta’s province of Ben Tre, where Truyen once served as head of the provincial Party unit.
Local medial estimated his real estates may be worth up to US$10 million.
Vietnam’s GDP per capital in 2013 was US$1,911 according to the World Bank.
When contacted by Thanh Nien News, Truyen refused to comment on the inspection result, claiming that he was still "working with the Inspection Commission" on the audit.
"Everything is decided by the Commission," he said.
The commission broke Truyen’s violations into six detailed violations.
The group also blamed authorities in Ben Tre and Ho Chi Minh City for granting Truyen his expansive land use privileges and ordered them to seize his land and houses.
In one case, the Ben Tre military granted Truyen the use of 351 square meters of land in 1992.
Under Vietnamese law, only military officials are entitled to military land.
Truyen never lived resided on the land, the inspectors found. Instead, he rented it out to a restaurant.
In 2002, the local government asked him to pay a VND16 million land use fee, but Truyen filed a petition for exemption that was later approved.
After Truyen filed petitions for several other houses and land, the central government asked him to return the land in Ben Tre in 2007, so he agreed.
Last year, while he and the government of Ben Tre were still debating the cost of his ground clearance a the construction of a fence, Truyen requested permission to build a warehouse for his daughter-in-law, which the Ben Tre Construction Department granted.
Another case pertained to a 260 square meter plot of land that included a 118-square-meter house in Ben Tre’s eponymous provincial capitol.
Former chief government inspector Tran Van Truyen
The provincial government rented out the land and house to Truyen in 2002, after a local construction company spent nearly VND413.4 million (US$19,410) rebuilding it.
In 2003, when he was living and working in Hanoi, he asked to buy the house at special rate after swearing that he had received no other land or housing from the government.
The province sold it to him for VND288 million ($13,500).
The inspectors say Truyen repeatedly lied in his petitions for subsidized housing and land.
By the time he accepted the discounted land in Hanoi, he already had the military land in hand and been exempted from land use fees in Ben Tre.
Government land and housing subsidies are only supposed to be granted once to each household.
In the third case identified by inspectors, in 2003, Truyen asked the Ho Chi Minh City government to provide him a rented home at 105 Nguyen Trong Tuyen Street in Phu Nhuan District after claiming he couldn't afford a place in town.
By the time the resulting rental contract had nearly expired in 2008, he asked that it be transferred to his daughter, Tran Thi Ngoc Hue, who worked at PetroVietnam's insurance company.
In March 2011, he filed another petition asking the city to sell the house to him, in his daughter’s name, citing financial difficulties.
The city agreed and sold the house at a preferential price that wasn't disclosed in the audit report.
By this time, the inspectors noted that Truyen's wife, Pham Thi Thuy, was the registered owner of a house in the city’s District 9. His daughter, Hue, also owned a high-end apartment in the city’s District 5.
The family did not use the homes, inspectors say, but rented them out to others.
Truyen “was dishonest,” the release charged.
In the fourth case, Truyen was leased a 95 square meter government home on Tran Quang Dieu Street, Dong Da District, Hanoi in 2004.
Though he retired in October 2011, Truyen only vacated the house in early 2014.
The fifth violation involved Turyen's construction of a huge villa in a poor neighborhood in Ben Tre's capitol, which, although not technically a violation, showed Truyen to be "inconsiderate."
His son Tran Hoang Anh, a traffic cop, bought 16,567 square meters of adjoining land from four local families in 2009 and 2010 for VND1.43 billion.
In December 2012, the Ben Tre government approved Anh’s proposal to build a three-story villa there.
A ragged hut sits behind the elaborate three-story villa in Ben Tre Province built by former chief inspector Tran Van Truyen. Photo: Nguyen Khoa Chien
In his financial disclosure, Truyen said he and his wife spent VND7 billion they had saved to build the villa.
He borrowed another VND4 billion, he claimed, from Pham Thi Kim Anh, the daughter of his adoptive mother in Ho Chi Minh City.
In the form cited by inspectors, Truyen claimed the villa as his residence.
The audit team found that Anh had given Truyen a house in an alley in Ho Chi Minh City's District 9, HCMC.
Instead of residing in the home, he borrowed the money against the house from Anh instead.
The house once belonged to Truyen’s adoptive mother Tran Thi Ly.
Ly prepared a will in July 2000 to leave all her assets, including the house, to her daughter Pham Thi Kim Anh.
Anh was granted all rights over the assets and was asked to share them with her grandchildren and adoptive children.
Ultimately, Anh gave the three-story house to Truyen in 2008.
Party code of conduct
The inspection commission did not evaluate Truyen based on the law, but rather on the standards of conduct maintained by the Communist Party.
There are certain things that are technically legal, but discouraged among Party member due to their potential impact on the Party’s prestige, according to comments included in Friday's release.
“Truyen did not think hard about building a huge village on a vast plot of land surrounded by poor, struggling families,” they wrote.
The commission ordered Truyen to explain himself at a meeting with them and the Ben Tre’s Party unit. They also called on his family to return the land and houses they've misappropriated.
The Ben Tre and Ho Chi Minh City authorities have been tasked with punishing Truyen and any other officials involved in his violations.