Monday , June 17 2024

Officials arrested as Vietnam’s first ‘smart urban area’ built illegally

Three urban management officials have been detained for violations in approving a smart housing project in southern Dong Nai Province.

Phan Duy Nghia, 59, former head of Trang Bom District’s urban management office, Nguyen Hai Trieu, 45, the office’s former deputy head, and Nguyen Lan Hanh, a specialist at the district’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment, are now being probed for “abusing positions and powers while performing official duties.”

Nghia and Trieu will be in detention for four months while Hanh is now on probation to serve the investigation, Dong Nai police announced Friday.

Their arrest came two weeks after police launched an investigation into official roles in violations of regulations at the Tan Thinh Residential Area project.

Developed by the HCMC-based LDG Investment JSC, the project was approved in 2018 with 488 villas and 290 townhouses to be built on 18 hectares on a hill in Trang Bom District.

In 2020, when construction was underway, provincial inspectors found multiple rules had been violated by developers.

LDG Investment had not obtained a construction permit, had not paid the owners of the rubber farm on which the project was being built or even obtained official ownership of the land.

Procedures to repurpose the farmland into a residential area had not been completed.

The inspectors went on to conclude that more than 20 officials in Trang Bom District had committed violations to allow the developer to flout regulations.

The Central Steering Committee on Prevention and Control of Corruption and Negative Phenomena then listed the case among those to be investigated last November.

Tan Thinh was marketed as “Vietnam’s first smart urban area” with a school, parks, supermarkets, and a medical center.

In the beginning it attracted droves of potential buyers from neighboring HCMC and Binh Duong Province, and Hanoi.

The inspectors found LDG had signed contracts to sell 60 villas and houses, both completed and half-finished, for VND132 billion (US$5.64 million).

Seven of the villas are occupied, and the owners said they get water and power.

They are frequently visited by police officers investigating the case, they said.

After the inspections, Dong Nai fined the company VND540 million (US$23,100).

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