The Communist Party has announced it will censure its retired anti-corruption czar after he agreed to return a portion of his illegal real estate holdings.
Tran Van Truyen, who headed the Government Inspectorate between 2007 and 2011, recently relinquished a house to authorities in Ho Chi Minh City and a plot of military land to officials in the Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre, after a commission charged that he had acquired them illegally.
On Tuesday, Cao Thanh Hieu, chairman of Ben Tre’s namesake capital, said the government has officially taken back the plot of military land at 598B5 Nguyen Thi Dinh Street.
Ben Tre’s military unit granted Truyen the 351 square meters of land in 1992, despite the fact that Vietnamese law bars civilians from holding rights to such land.
The inspectors said that Truyen never resided on the land, but rented it out to the owners of a restaurant.
In 2002, the local government asked him to pay a VND16 million (US$748) 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 the military plot in 2007 to no avail.
Truyen held onto the plot and even had a warehouse built on site for his daughter-in-law.
Ho Chi Minh City house
Early this month, Ho Chi Minh City authorities also took back Truyen’s house at 105 Nguyen Trong Tuyen Street in Phu Nhuan District.
But he has plenty of other places to stay.
In 2003, when Truyen was working and living in Hanoi, he asked the HCMC government to rent him the house, claiming he could not afford a place in the southern city.
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.
Truyen 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.
Former chief inspector Tran Van Truyen
Inspectors noted that, at the time he filed his petition for relief, his 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 land and the house were included on a list of six land use violations that the Party's Central Inspection Committee described in a press release issued on November 21 about Truyen's conduct .
The Party inspectors said he had lied on disclosure and land use applications in order to hoard subsidized housing he and his family eventually rented to paying tenants.
Another violation involved a government home that Hanoi authorities leased Truyen in 2004, when he was working there. He only returned the house early this year, nearly three years after his retirement.
No actions have been reported on another house that he bought at a subsidized price in Ben Tre in 2003 or his VND7 billion ($328,000) villa in the province, which is among the poorest in the Mekong Delta.
The discounted house violated the regulations on government land and housing subsidies, which are supposed to be granted once to each household. By the time Truyen accepted the house, he already had the plot of military land and had secured an exemption from the land use fee.
His ownership of the villa was not technically a crime, but violated the Communist Party’s code of conduct, the inspectors said.
Its ostentatious design prompted inspectors to call Truyen "cavalier".
The giant villa is surrounded by the ragged huts of poor farmers and encroaches on four adjoining plots that Truyen’s family bought from poor families in 2009 and 2010 for VND1.43 billion ($67,000).
HCMC and Ben Tre authorities are also investigating who is responsible for granting Truyen his illegal holdings.