“State secrets” charge underpins latest Danang purge

Happier days, Vu at work on his property empire in Danang in 2016. Photo courtesy AFP.

A former top police officer and the former head of Vietnam’s third largest city have been arrested, in the latest sign of political infighting amongst the country’s leadership.

After rooting out allegedly corrupt officials in the banking sector and the state oil company, the General-Secretary of the Communist party, Nguyen Phu Trong, is now turning his guns on the booming central city of Danang.

The charges appear to focus on the infringement of rules over land sales in the city, but the former deputy head of national police intelligence, Phan Huu Tuan, is also charged with “revealing state secrets”.

That is the same charge levelled against Phan Van Anh Vu, a Danang property developer, who made a spectacular bid for freedom at the end of last year before being deported from Singapore.

Reports at the time said that the tycoon was also a senior operative in state security and was carrying confidential information about the abduction in Berlin last summer of the fugitive former oil company executive, Trinh Xuan Thanh.

The authorities have given no details of their case against Mr Vu or the arrested police commander, Tuan, but clearly someone in the leadership suspects they are in possession of potentially damaging intelligence.

Good government

Mr Trong unleashed the main thrust of his anti-corruption campaign after his reappointment as party leader in January 2016. The suspicion is that he’s also using the opportunity to bring down his rivals.

He has targeted a number of officials who took advantage of the gold rush atmosphere that took hold in sections of the Communist party during the administrations of the former prime minister, Nguyen Tan Dung.

Danang was held up as a shining example of dynamic good government at that time, transformed from a somewhat down-at-heel port city to a booming hub with all the trappings of a modern metropolis.

Now, a series of former city mayors are being accused of breaking regulations over land management to enrich themselves.

Tran Van Minh, a former city chairman, was arrested, while one of his predecessors, Van Huu Chien, was placed under house arrest.

Three other former city officials are also under house arrest, while the sitting chairman was dismissed from his posts last year.

Lack of transparency

The current leadership of the city has suggested that pubic land should have been used for the benefit of all rather than offered for private sale.

Mr Trong’s anti-corruption drive has proved popular with a public sickened by the voracity of public servants on the make.

However, the true intentions of Trong and his henchmen remain a matter for conjecture.

The anti-corruption campaign, for all its claimed successes, remains an arbitrary process marked by a complete lack of transparency, and is proving a useful cover for the settling of political scores