3 officials probed in $18 mln land scam in Vietnam beach town

By Ngoc Le, Thanh Nien News

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The site of Metropolitan luxury housing and commercial complex project in Vung Tau Town. Photo credit: Dong Ha/Tuoi Tre The site of Metropolitan luxury housing and commercial complex project in Vung Tau Town. Photo credit: Dong Ha/Tuoi Tre

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The Ministry of Public Security Sunday said it would investigate three senior Vung Tau town officials following allegations of corruption with regard to a major property development that began in 2010.
The suspects are Phan Hoa Binh, a former mayor, Truong Van Tri, his deputy, and Nguyen Thanh Son, head of the beach town’s Department of Urban Management.
They allegedly committed wrongdoing in approving the Metropolitan housing and commercial complex, a source told Thanh Nien.
Police earlier raided the trio’s house and seized some documents, the source said.
Preliminary investigation found that they had approved many documents for An Khang Real Estate Company, the project developer, though it had failed to establish its financial wherewithal and get permits for the project.
They also approved the project in an area where public and private lands overlapped, which they legally should not have done.
Investigators turned their sights on the trio after an investigation of An Khang Real Estate Company was launched in 2014 and the police arrested four of its officials.
Two town officials were also arrested that year, Vu Quoc Tuan, head of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment, and his subordinate Nguyen Trung Quoc.
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Investigators also said Binh and Tri had illegally approved applications for changing land use at two other projects, the Khang Gia Han housing and commercial complex and Vuon Xuan residential area.
Tri claimed he did not benefit personally from approving them.

He told Tuoi Tre newspaper he signed the documents shortly after assuming his position in 2010 and signed whatever his subordinates sent to him without carefully examining the documents due to work pressure.

“I did not pocket anything or touch a penny,” he said.
Son was also surprised by the probe, saying his predecessor had received the applications and he only forwarded them to his superiors for approval.
By 2013 nearly 300 people had paid a total of more than VND400 billion (US$18 million) to An Khang, and complained to the police after the company failed to hand them land plots as promised.
After the police entered the picture in 2014, the Metropolitan project was suspended.
Binh is currently deputy head of the Ba Ria – Vung Tau Party unit’s organizing department.
Tri works at the provincial people’s committee and Son is chairman of the Vung Tau town Ward 9 people’s committee.

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