Binh Phuoc officials escape punishment for shady auctions

By Do Truong, Thanh Nien News

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A rubber plantation in Binh Phuoc province. Photo courtesy of Lao Dong
Fifteen officers including the leaders of the People’s Committee in the southern city of Binh Phuoc province have paid a total VND 24-billion (US$1.13 million) in compensation to the provincial budget for their role in an erroneous public auction held in 2011, authorities said at a press conference on April 17.
The names of the officers weren't mentioned, though an initial list released in 2013 named 17 individuals allegedly involved in the scandal.

The 2011 auction of a 323- hectare rubber plantation that belonged to the province was reportedly held to raise funds to build a road in the area; the land was sold for VND 25 billion less than the price initially established by provincial officials or, in other words a 30% discount.

Last year, police in Binh Phuoc arrested three directors of the provincial People’s Committee as part of their investigation into premeditated misconduct that caused severe damages. 
The suspects included the Deputy Director of the Judiciary department and Director of the Provincial Auction Center Nguyen Tuan Canh, Finance Department Deputy Truong Van Pham, and Director of the Land Development Fund Nguyen Minh Luan.

The erroneous sales were canceled, and the buyers were paid a total of VND 24 billion in compensation for caring for the rubber trees and the interest on the sum they paid for the land.

The three officers were released after Binh Phuoc province paid the compensation to the buyers and the investigation into the case was suspended.  

“The case is done here”, concluded Nguyen Van Thanh, Chief of the provincial People’s Committee Secretariat and spokesman of the province, at the press conference.
In a similar case, in August 2010, the provincial People’s Committee asked its auction center to appraise a 31.3 hectare rubber plantation.

Four months after the auction center set an opening bid of VND11 billion, the Provincial Mayor Truong Tan Thieu signed a decision to directly sell the plantation, without auction, for VND 8,2 billion.

Later in 2011, Thieu and his deputy Nguyen Van Loi signed orders to sell the remaining plantation lots for what amounted to a 30% discount on all the land sold.

Binh Phuoc is, agriculturally, one of the most productive provinces in Vietnam. The province is located about 123 km from Ho Chi Minh City to the north. 

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