Vietnam disciplines communications minister over pay TV deal

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — The ruling Communist Party of Vietnam disciplined the country's communications minister Thursday for approving a mobile phone operator's purchase of a stake in a private pay TV provider, a deal that caused serious financial losses to the state.

Minister of Information and Communications Truong Minh Tuan was given a warning and removed as head of the ministry's party organization following a meeting of the all-powerful Politburo chaired by General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, the party said on its website.

Tuan signed the approval for the deal and other related documents that "go contrary to the regulations," it said.

The Politburo also asked the government to consider administrative disciplinary measures against Tuan, the party's statement said.

Under the leadership of Tuan and his predecessor Nguyen Bac Son, the ministry's party organization had "committed very serious violations and mistakes, causing serious losses to the state, seriously affecting the operations and privatization of Mobifone Corp., ... causing discontent among the public," the statement said referring to the country's second-largest mobile phone operator.

The Politburo also asked the Party Central Committee to consider serious disciplinary measures against Son.

The disciplinary action followed the arrests this week of Le Nam Tra, former chairman of state-owned Mobifone, and communications ministry official Pham Dinh Trong for violating regulations in using and managing state funds when Mobifone bought a stake in Audio Visual Global joint stock company at an inflated price.

The government said earlier this year that Mobifone bought 95 percent of AVG for 8.9 trillion dong ($387 million) based on a false assessment of the company's financial situation.

AVG had accumulated losses of 1.633 trillion dong ($73 million), or 45 percent of its legal capital, as of the end of March 2015, the government said, adding the deal could have caused losses of 7 trillion dong ($305 million) to Mobifone.

Vietnam's toughest crackdown against corruption in years has centered on financial corruption at PetroVietnam and in the banking sector. Scores of former or current PetroVietnam executives and bankers have been put on trial.