Thousands of people in central and northern provinces have given their land-use certificates to many companies and individuals in scams that allegedly involve several local officials.
From May onwards, representatives of several private companies have been persuading people and state-owned businesses in many provinces, including Gia Lai, Kon Tum, and Nghe An to lend their land-use rights with promises they will be used to generate funds for various projects that will fetch high returns.
All of these projects, from afforestation to low-cost credit schemes, have been pronounced bogus by authorities.
Police in Gia Lai's la Grai and Duc Co districts are investigating Mai Xuan Bao and a woman known only as Nhung for collecting land use certificates or their notarized copies from residents and workers in two coffee companies.
Bao, 55, and Nhung, posing as staff of the Phu Tai Company, told people the company was implementing a project to aid local Agent Orange victims by paying them at least VND5 million (US$281) per hectare of their lands for forest clearance.
Police said the duo had collected land-use certificates for a total of 1,300 hectares of land.
The company, based in Nghe An's Vinh Town, has been collecting hundreds of land-use certificates or notarized copies in Nghe An and the neighboring province of Thanh Hoa, the Cong An Nhan Dan (People's police) newspaper reported last week.
The address of Phu Tai's office in Vinh turned out to be fake. Duong Van Chuyen, a local official, told Thanh Nien Sunday the company has never operated there.
According to the VNExpress newswire, authorities have not been able to locate Phu Tai's director Nguyen Thi Thuy and the certificates thus far.
In a similar case, chairwoman of the Duc Co Women's Association, Nguyen Thi Phuong, has borrowed 310 land-use certificates to raise funds for an afforestation project, the district People's Committee said.
Phuong has cooperated with the Kontum-based Nam Hai Company to publicize the project and persuaded locals to lend their land-use rights, VNA reported.
Phuong was also helped to collect the certificates by several officials of la Lang Commune, including Nguyen Thanh Nhan, vice chairman of the local People's Committee.
Police in Lang Son Province have asked authorities of Binh Gia District to reprimand Hoang Dinh Dan and Chu The Hoc ââ‚¬" high-ranking officials of Hung Dao and Minh Khai communes, for taking 573 land-use certificates and giving them to a company called Dai Lam in Ha Giang Province as collateral for a project, according to the Dat Viet newspaper.
Police have taken back these certificates and returned them to their owners, the paper said.
People in other Lang Son districts and town including Huu Lung have also given nearly 6,000 land-use certificates to different people for similar reasons. None of these papers have been retrieved.
Hanoi police are investigating the Nghe Ha Company for collecting 30,000 certificates from Nghe An, Thanh Hoa, Quang Ninh and Kon Tum provinces while seven companies in Hoa Binh province have not returned more than 3,000 documents to their owners in spite of orders from authorities.
Many state-run forestry companies and national parks in Dak Lak and Hoa Binh provinces have also been persuaded to lend their certificates with promises of accessing billions of dong in capital. Not one has received any money, local media reported.
Police are still investigating the cases and motives have not been established yet.
Ten households in Dak Lak's Ea Kar District are facing foreclosure of their homes after a local company borrowed their land deeds to take loans from banks in 2006. The company went bankrupt in 2007, unable to repay its debts.