Chief Government Inspector Huynh Phong Tranh told reporters to withhold judgement on his predecessor, whom Party inspectors say lied to various officials to accrue subsidized real estate.
“There have only been signs of violations in asset holding and government subsidies,” Tranh told the press on the sideline of the government’s anti-corruption meeting on Wednesday, in reference to a recent report on his predecessor Tran Van Truyen.
The Wednesday meeting did not address Truyen’s case as the government is still assessing the extent of his violations and the role other officials played in funneling him land and housing privileges.
Vietnam does not allow cases involving major officials to be publicly discussed before they are settled in a courtroom.
Truyen, who served as head of the Government Inspectorate--essentially, Vietnam’s anti-corruption unit--between 2007 and 2011, has been subjected to close public scrutiny for months after local media began drawing attention to his vast real estate portfolio, which includes a VND7 billion (US$328,000) three-story villa he built on a VND1.43 billion ($67,000) plot of land in Ben Tre, one of the poorest provinces in the Mekong Delta.
Communist Party’s inspectors confirmed the reports last Friday, adding fuel to the fire.
The Central Communist Party Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong had called for the audit, last July, following a preponderance of media coverage.
Former chief government inspector Tran Van Truyen
In a press release, the Inspection Commission of the Party Central Committee detailed six cases of Truyen illegally and inappropriately accruing land and houses in Ho Chi Minh City and Ben Tre, where he once to served as Party chief.
The commission chastised Truyen as “not thinking carefully,” “lacking honesty” and “failing to provide a good example.”
Tranh said HCMC and Ben Tre authorities have started to seize the assets identified in the report.
Also outside the meeting, Giles Lever, the UK's ambassador in Hanoi, praised the role the local media played in pursuing the case, noting that Truyen’s actions were brought to light by a newspaper rather than the of the authorities.
Nguoi Cao Tuoi newspaper was the first to scrutinize Truyen early this year.
The paper said Truyen’s villa in Ben Tre is made from rare and protected sua (Dalbergia tonkinensis prain) wood and the front gate is gilded with gold.
Local media estimated Truyen’s real estate holdings may be worth up to US$10 million in a country where the average person makes less than $2,000 per year.
Lever said if the media are given more space and power, more people will hesitate to do wrong.
A common fear of being exposed will help reduce corruption, he said.