Local governments in Vietnam have taken steps to seize a house and a plot of military land from the Communist Party's retired anti-corruption czar, Tran Van Truyen.
The actions followed Party Central Commission Inspection that found Truyen, who served as head of the Government Inspectorate between 2007 and 2011, had illicitly accrued huge real estate holdings.
A press release issued by the commission on Friday ordered municipal and provincial officials to punish Truyen for six land-use violations he committed starting in 1992.
The Vietnamese government and Party offer subsidized housing to officials and Party members. These offers are only meant to be extended once, to a single family, for the purpose of providing them a residence.
Nguyen Van Thang, Ben Tre Province's former Party head, told Tuoi Tre that the land and housing violations showed that “Truyen was immoral.”
“It’s hard to accept that a high-ranking official would repeatedly cry wolf about his financial and housing difficulties to accrue subsidized land and housing, only to rent them out or pass them on to his children.”
Thang said Truyen’s construction of a VND7 billion (US$328,000) three-story villa in one of the poorest provinces in the Mekong Delta as “offensive.”
The Party inspectors noted that the villa was surrounded by ragged huts and that Truyen's family bought adjoining land from four local families in 2009 and 2010 for VND1.43 billion ($67,000).
“Any person would suspect that it’s corruption," Thang said. "Because clearly, a government official who has so much money and assets is hard to explain.”
“The most important thing here is not the loss of real estate but the severe loss of public confidence in a Party official. That is hard to calculate and cannot be recovered any time soon.”
Truyen has been accused of repeatedly lying on disclosure and land use applications to amass subsidized housing he and his family then rented to paying tenants. His alleged manipulation of land and housing use rights occurred in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Ben Tre, where the 64-year-old once headed the provincial Party unit.
Tuoi Tre newspaper found that by the time the inspection committee's release was issued, HCMC’s Party unit had already taken steps to seize Truyen’s house on 105 Nguyen Trong Tuyen Street, Phu Nhuan District and punish officials that rented and ultimately sold him the home.
Tran Trong Tuan, director of the HCMC Construction Department, told Tuoi Tre that the municipal government asked him to begin proceedings to take back the house on November 11.
Tuan said his department and related agencies are in the process of executing the order. They are also investigating the role that several other individuals may have played the unlawful transaction.
In 2003, when Truyen was working and living in Hanoi, he asked the Ho Chi Minh City government to rent him the house, claiming he couldn’t afford a place in town.
Then, just before his subsidized rental contract was set to expire in 2008, Truyen 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 to purchase the house from the city, under his daughter’s name, according to the audit report.
Truyen allegedly claimed he was suffering financial difficulties and the city agreed to sell him the house at a subsidized price that has yet to be disclosed.
Inspectors noted that at the time he filed his petition for reilef, Truyen’s wife, Pham Thi Thuy, owned a house in the city’s District 9 and his daughter, Hue, owned a high-end apartment in the city’s District 5.
The family did not reside at either residence, inspectors say, but rented them out to others.
The house at 105 Nguyen Trong Tuyen Street, Phu Nhuan District (C) that HCMC government sold to former chief inspector Tran Van Truyen for a subsidized price after he claimed financial difficulties. The family has rented it out to a fruit shop. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre
Also on Friday, Chairman Vo Thanh Hao of Ben Tre's Party Unit said he had signed a decision to seize Truyen's plot of military land at 598B5 Nguyen Thi Dinh on November 19.
“The Inspection Commission of the Party Central Committee has shown that there was too much respect and politeness extended to Truyen.”
Ben Tre’s military unit granted him 351 square meters of land in 1992, despite the fact that only military officials are legally entitled to military land, inspectors found.
Truyen never resided on the land, they noted, but 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 the use rights to several other houses and plots of land, the central government asked him to return his land in Ben Tre in 2007, but he managed to keep it until now and even had a warehouse built on site for his daughter-in-law.
Hao said: “The provincial People’s Committee will review the role local agencies and individuals played in these transactions soon.”