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Court upholds 17-year prison sentence for former Danang leader in illicit land acquisition

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HANOI – A court has thrown out an appeal by Tran Van Minh, former Danang chairman between 2006 and 2011, against his 17-year prison sentence for the murky transfers of State-owned housing and land complexes in the central coastal city.

On Tuesday, the High-level People’s Court of Hanoi City delivered its rulings on the appeals by the 64-year-old Minh; his successor Van Huu Chien, 66; former property tycoon Phan Van Anh Vu, 44, who was the chairman of Bac Nam 79 Construction JSC; and 17 other defendants.

The panel of judges dismissed the appeals of Minh and Vu, who were found guilty of breaking regulations on the management and use of State properties, leading to losses and wastefulness, and those on land management.

Having taken the case’s evidence and their testimonies into account, the higher court said the first-instance verdicts against the duo were based on reasonable, lawful and just grounds.

Therefore, Minh and Vu will spend 17 and 30 years, respectively, behind bars for the two charges.

Meanwhile, Chien, who served as the Danang leader between 2011 and 2016, had his sentence commuted by two years to 10 years, due to his efforts to recover part of the damage.

The misconduct of Minh, Chien and the other accused who were former leaders of the city’s departments and agencies cost the State the rights to manage, operate and use public house and land complexes for a lengthy period, according to the judges.

They were found to have caused a total loss of some VND22 trillion (US$945 million) for the State through the transfer of 22 public housing and land complexes and seven real estate projects.

The higher court stated there were sufficient grounds to prove Minh was the key individual who developed the policy to transfer these public properties and had directed Chien and others accused in the case to commit the criminal act.

The first-instance verdicts, which concluded that Minh and Chien had played major roles in the case, were lawful, according to the judges.

At the appellate court, the former business mogul Vu appealed against the entire first-instance verdict, claiming that he had no close relationship with the city’s leaders and thus ruled out the chance that he could have been their accomplice.

However, the higher court determined that Vu had a close relationship with the former leaders, so the charges against him were appropriate.

Vu moonlighted as an operative for the General Department of Intelligence with the Ministry of Public Security in 2009 and left the organization in 2017.

During that time, he abused his position and urged the ministry’s then-leaders to issue official letters that framed his firms as fronts for the ministry’s professional operations. This enabled him to buy and transfer many State-owned plots of land in prime locations.

Ex-chairman Minh was aware that Vu was not eligible to purchase these properties but still gave him the go-ahead to do so.

Minh and his subordinates were found guilty of having granted Vu a number of unlawful privileges, such as property handover at concessional prices without going through the due process of an auction.

For the remaining 17 defendants, their prison sentences were either reduced to between one and six years or became noncustodial sentences.

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