Phan Van Anh Vu, a business tycoon whose house in the central city of Da Nang searched by investigative police on Thursday, is notoriously referred to by local voters as a ‘mafia boss.’
The 42-year-old, aka Vu "nhom" (aluminum), is a popular business mogul in Da Nang, possessing different companies, including the I.V.C Co Ltd, 79 JSC and Bac Nam 79 JSC, and holding a stake in several other firms.
He is also believed to be the owner of numerous land plots in ‘prime locations’ across the central city, including two ‘floating restaurants’ on the city’s iconic Han River.
The tycoon is also believed to have played a role in several land transfers and the sale of publicly-owned houses during the tenure of former city Party chief Nguyen Ba Thanh and former chairman Tran Van Minh.
79 JSC was able to purchase three land plots on Bach Dang Street, numbered 36, 38 and 38-extended, without having to participate in an auction.
The city had indeed run newspaper ads to auction those pieces of land, but eventually ruled that 79 JSC was the only interested buyer and decided to sell the properties to the company.
Upon receiving the land plots in 2007 and obtaining land use certificate in 2009, 79 JSC was unable to fulfill any of its commitments when applying to buy the properties or start any project. Instead, it transferred all of the land, totally 3,728 square meters, to Mat Troi Song Han JSC in 2011, pulling in a profit of nearly VND50 billion ($2.2 million).
|File photo of Phan Van Anh Vu. Tuoi Tre
One of the other high-profile projects of Vu “nhom” in Da Nang is the Phu Gia Compound, spanning a 20,093 square meter area in Thanh Khe District.
The land plot used to belong to auto and electronics company before the firm relocated and the Da Nang administration revoked the land plot.
In August 2006, the city’s administration approved a plan to auction the plot at the starting price of VND100 billion ($4.41 million). The Da Nang Center for Real-Estate Transaction held the auction on August 24, 2006, but no individual or organization showed up.
On April 11, 2007, Da Nang Center for Real-Estate Transactions received an application from the Thanh Pho Mat Troi (Sun City) JSC, asking to buy the land for VND100 billion as required by the city.
The proposal was met, even though the center should have opened new auctions with lower starting prices to find a buyer for the land, according to regulations, instead of directly selling it to Sun City.
On March 10, 2009, Sun City sought permission to transfer land usage rights to Nguyen Quang Thanh, Vu’s brother-in-law.
The Thanh Khe District administration issued the land use certificate to Thanh who, in turn, transferred the land to Phu Gia Compound Co. Ltd. which developed the land under Vu’s direction.
The Phu Gia Compound developer has started putting the project’s apartments on sale even though it has yet to meet requirements to open sale.
|The construction site of Phu Gia Compound is seen in Da Nang, central Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Other ‘problematic’ projects
Another problem ridden project developed by Vu is the Sunrise Bay Da Nang complex in Hai Chau District.
The housing and village complex is located on a 180-hectare land running through both Thuan Phuoc and Thanh Binh Wards.
In March, the Da Nang administration found that the project failed to obtain an environmental impact assessment and fire prevention evaluation.
The project did obtain an environmental impact assessment in 2007 but under the premise that the land would be used as a golf course and high-rise project, according to Le Quang Nam, director of the Da Nang Department of Natural Resources and Environment.
According to the law, when a project has its designated function and planning adjusted, the developer must prepare a new environmental impact assessment, a regulation Vu did not comply with.
The Sunrise Bay project has also opened sale for its houses and villas before meeting those regulatory requirements.
|People watch as police search the house of Phan Van Anh Vu in Da Nang, central Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Aside from several land plots throughout the city, Vu also possesses a number plots and projects along the coast, near the city’s Son Tra Mountain.
One such plot is a piece of land at the end of Pham Van Dong Street, which was first transferred to two local investors, Hoang Hai and Trung Thi Lam Ngoc, for VND84 billion ($3.7 million) in 2006.
The two, however, never developed the land, and in 2008 authorized Vu to transfer it to Pham Dang Quan at VND581 billion ($25.59 million), netting a profit of VND495 billion ($21.81 million) from the price difference.
In 2009, Quan transfer the land to another company, FutaLand, for VND585 billion ($25.77 million).
Another project near Son Tra is the Ghenh Ban – Bai Da ecotourism area, expected to house 228 villas on an area of 95.58 hectares, developed by the 79 JSC.
In 2014 the Da Nang administration gave in-principle approval to the project and allowed 79 JSC to use the land without going through an auction, which violated the law on land management.
|The public-owned houses and lands being investigated in Da Nang.