Cablegate: Ag Minister in Disgrace; Mpt Minister Next?

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Ag Minister in disgrace; MPT Minister next?

Ref: A. Hanoi 956 B. 03 Hanoi 3156

1. (U) The April 27 "Nhan Dan" carried a small article on
its back page reporting on Decision No. 398/2004/QD-TTg to
"discipline" Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development
Le Huy Ngo, which was apparently signed by Prime Minister
Phan Van Khai on April 22. Ngo was specifically censured
for "lacking responsibility" in the case of a MARD
subsidiary whose officers -- notably La Thi Kim Oanh --
skimmed off millions of US dollars worth of MARD-backed bank
loans (ref b). Two MARD Vice Ministers were also convicted
in the case but had their sentences suspended at the appeal
trial, at which Ngo appeared as a character witness on their
behalf (ref a).

2. (U) Ngo reportedly submitted a letter of resignation on
April 23, a step that had long been predicted. Conventional
wisdom in Hanoi is that Ngo, who is also a member of the
CPV's Central Committee, will not face any criminal charges,
however. His likely successor is Cao Duc Phat, former MARD
Vice Minister and briefly Deputy People's Committee
Chairperson in An Giang province.

3. (U) Press reports have also indicated that Minister of
Post and Telematics Do Trung Ta (another CPV Central
Committee member) is now under investigation, along with his
son, on charges of corruption and/or embezzlement. Police
were reportedly seen raiding Ta's office at the Ministry
during the week of April 19 to collect his files and
personal papers.

4. (U) Comment: The CPV and GVN are well aware of the
dangers of corruption to their legitimacy and authority, but
have pursued few high level perpetrators. Willingness to
act upon and to publicize cases involving members of the
Cabinet and Central Committee are welcome, but will likely
not alter public perceptions that high fliers receive
lenient treatment.

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