Police in the central city of Da Nang and officers from the Ministry of Public Security on Thursday executed a search warrant for the house of a local business tycoon, notoriously referred to by local voters as a ‘mafia boss,’ for his alleged land management manipulation.
Tran Dinh Lien, deputy director of the Da Nang police department, confirmed a search at the residence of Phan Van Anh Vu to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper later the same day.
Vu is also known as Vu “nhom” (aluminum) for his past ownership of a glass and aluminum business.
The 42-year-old 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.
‘Da Nang Mafia’
On October 4, during a meeting between voters in Da Nang’s Cam Le District and the city’s National Assembly delegates, a voter named Hoang Ngoc Khang put forward several tough questions including “Who is Vu ‘nhom’ a.k.a. ‘Da Nang Mafia’?” and “Why has he been able to have so much impact on Da Nang?”
Khang asserted that Vu “nhom” has manipulated “not only Da Nang’s economy but also the municipal administration.”
“Is that true? If yes, how should this case be handled?” Khang asked.
On December 20, at a meeting of retired general-rank military officers, Le Cong Thanh, a former provincial force commander, challenged Truong Quang Nghia, the current Da Nang Party chief, over reports that Vu had pressured municipal authorities into accepting his land transfer proposals and the sale of local publicly-owned property.
Some at the meeting further alleged that Vu had been able to buy land plots and public houses in Da Nang to develop his own projects at low prices or without going through the legally required auction process.
Thanh also asked the Da Nang Party chief to verify reports that Vu had once threatened to have the city’s chairman sacked if his demands regarding an investment project were not met.
“I heard that there many municipal leaders were present at the time but Vu still blatantly made the threat; is that true?” Thanh questioned.
Projects under scrutiny
In September, the investigative unit under the Ministry of Public Security found a multitude of legal offences revolving around the sale of publicly owned land and houses by the Da Nang administration and deiced to launch a probe into the matter.
The police requested that the Da Nang administration provide files on the sale of 31 publicly-owned houses and plots, alongside nine other projects, most of which are linked to Vu “nhom”.
Of these, there are three houses on Nguyen Thai Hoc, numbered 43, 45, and 47, that are releated to the city's former Party chief Nguyen Xuan Anh, who was removed of his post in October.
Anh and his family lived in the 43 Nguyen Thai Hoc house and uses the other two for business purposes.
|Police are seen in front of the house of Phan Van Anh Vu in Da Nang, central Vietnam, on December 21, 2017. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
According to the files, I.V.C, 79 JSC and Bac Nam 79, all owned by Vu, proposed to either lease or buy those land and houses to serve its “business and production activities” or build “company offices.”
The Da Nang administration agreed to the proposals along with a request that the properties be used under the right purposes and functions.
However, shortly after receiving the rights to the properties, the three companies failed to open any offices, instead deciding to resell some of the real estate at a profit and use the rest for other purposes.
The land plots and houses under investigation have been sold to companies under Vu’s umbrella without following proper auction regulations. As a result, the city’s revenue took a hit.
The deals were also made at prices much lower than market rates.
In October, the Da Nang administration admitted in a report to the State Inspectorate of Vietnam and Ministry of Public Security that the prices were determined in favor of the businesses.