An estate official in Ho Chi Minh City has been receiving money to turn a blind eye to buildings in violation of their construction permits, Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper has discovered.
With the help of around VND100 million (US$4,400) and a good connection, a hotel built in violation of its permit can be ‘legitimized’ in Ho Chi Minh City.
Last month, T., an estate developer in Ho Chi Minh City, had planned on taking over a small hotel on Nguyen Thi Thap Street in District 7.
According to the building’s construction permit, the hotel is licensed to include one ground floor, one mezzanine, three floors and a partial roof.
However, its previous owner had rebuilt the mezzanine and transformed it into a full floor, with the roof walled to add additional rooms.
Unwilling to demolish the illegal parts of the building, T. got in touch with a ‘broker’ to help him legitimize its papers.
T. met up with a so-called ‘broker’ going by the name of Nam, who advised him to ‘take a shortcut’ with a promise that “if you’re willing to pay, your papers will be done in no time, 100 percent guaranteed.”
Nam introduced T. to Vu Thuy Duong, director of Thai Duong Land, a real estate and construction services company based in District 7.
Scanning through T.’s papers, Duong reassured the man that he could handle the issue, as he had some strings he could pull at the Land Registration Office of District 7.
“You can proceed with the purchase, then send me the files after they’ve been notarized, so I can have my minions sketch the building plan,” Duong instructed his client. “After that, I will escort you myself to the district authorities to submit the files. You can keep the original copy. Just send me photos of those files so I can forward to the official in charge.”
Duong demanded VND150 million ($6,600) for the deal, 50 percent of which was to be paid once the files were submitted, and the rest once the mission was accomplished.
After T.’s continued requests to meet the official in charge of processing his papers, Duong agreed to set up an appointment between him and Le Van Tan, an official of the Land Registration Office of Distrct 7.
“It’s out of respect that he agrees to meet you,” Duong said. “Tan’s not in the same league as us. He is putting his career at risk even by sitting down with us. It cost him a fortune to get into that position, so the money he gets for legitimizing a house is not worth the risk.”
At 11:00 am, Tan arrived at the designated location for the meeting and began looking through the papers handed to him by T.
“I already told you that I can get this done,” Tan assured T. “Some serious violations may have to be pulled down, but I can pull some strings to have them left intact.”
Duong said that Tan was the official directly in charge of approving T.’s papers, and that it is entirely in his decision whether the papers are ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’
‘VND100 million would be reasonable’
On April 28, T. visited Tan in his office at the headquarters of District 7’s administration, but was told to wait for him at a nearby coffee store as “the bosses are around.”
Despite his earlier confirmation that he could get the paperwork done, this time Tan said the house T. was about to buy had some serious violations.
“I could skip a few violations if the house was in an alley, but this one’s right at the front,” Tan explained. “Your files will have to go to my boss for approval.”
Tan admitted that he had worked with Duong many times to legitimize multiple house papers.
“I only agree to do it when I know I can,” Tan said. “I can help you with the home’s violations in construction, but I can’t help you with the paperwork to purchase the house.”
When T. complained about having to pay Duong VND150 million ($6,600) for the deal, Tan said the price was a bit too high.
“You should bargain it down a bit, around VND100 million would be reasonable,” Tan suggested.
Tan said he gets VND50 million ($2,200) for his part, but he did not pocket the whole sum for himself.
“I clearly have to share it with my colleagues in charge of receiving and screening the files, and with those who can help speed up the process,” Tan explained. “And then there’s also my boss.”