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Two former Vietnamese ministers prosecuted in scandalous acquisition deal

Two former Vietnamese ministers prosecuted in scandalous acquisition deal

Saturday, October 19, 2019, 18:14 GMT+7
Two former Vietnamese ministers prosecuted in scandalous acquisition deal
Former Ministers of Information and Communications Nguyen Bac Son (left) and Truong Minh Tuan. Photo: Ministry of Public Security

The top public prosecutor’s office of Vietnam said on Saturday it has prosecuted two former ministers of information and communications along with 12 other defendants related to a scandalous US$391 million deal where state-run telco MobiFone attempted to acquire almost the entirety of a private firm.

The former ministers, Nguyen Bac Son and Truong Minh Tuan, are indicted on the charges of “violating regulations on the management and use of public capital, causing serious consequences” and “receiving bribes”, the Supreme People’s Procuracy of Vietnam said.

Son, 66, and Tuan, 59, had roles in the notorious deal in 2015, in which MobiFone tried to buy a 95 percent stake in Audio Visual Global JSC (AVG), a pay-per-view private TV company, prosecutors found.

Son was minister of information and communications for the 2011-16 tenure, while Tuan assumed the same office between 2016 and 2018.

MobiFone, one of the country’s leading mobile network operators, is an entity owned entirely by the state and has been under the management of the Ministry of Information and Communications since December 2014.

Former AVG Chairman Pham Nhat Vu is indicted on the charge of “giving bribes”.

Vu allegedly gave Son and Tuan $3 million and $200,000, respectively, after the deal was signed in 2015, police concluded last month.

Former AVG Chiarman Pham Nhat Vu. Photo: Ministry of Public Security
Former AVG Chiarman Pham Nhat Vu. Photo: Ministry of Public Security

Eleven others prosecuted for public capital management violations are Pham Dinh Trong, former head of the MIC’s Department of Enterprise Management; Vo Van Manh and Hoang Duy Quang from AMAX investment consultancy and valuation company; three former MobiFone leaders - Le Nam Tra, Cao Duy Hai and Phan Thi Hoa Mai; and five deputy general directors of MobiFone – Pham Thi Phuong Anh, Ho Tuan, Nguyen Dang Nguyen, Nguyen Bao Long and Nguyen Manh Hung.

Tra and Hai are also charged with receiving bribes of $2.5 million and $500,000, respectively, from Vu.

Police arrested and launched legal proceedings against the former ministers in February.

Six other defendants have also been detained.

The AVG acquisition deal cost MobiFone $391 million, many times higher than the real value of the struggling AVG at that time, according to the indictments.

Son, Tuan, Tra and Hai made use of their positions and authority to speed up the deal without the prime minister’s approval, despite being aware of the poor financial and business situation of AVG, the top prosecutor’s office said.

The deal caused a loss of over VND6.47 trillion ($278.21 million) to the state, it said.

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