The central police department yesterday submitted proposals to the central People’s Procuracy—the state prosecutor’s office—to charge retired major general Pham Xuan Quac with “abuse of power” for actions he took while heading the investigation into the PMU18 scam in 2006, police said. The PMU18 was in charge of millions of dollars of official development aid funds from the World Bank and other multi-lateral aid agencies.

Quac, 62, was also the former chief of the Central Social Crimes Department. He would be put under house arrest pending further investigations, police said.

Quac’s subordinate on the investigation team probing the transport ministry’s Project Management Unit 18, senior Lieutenant Colonel Dinh The Huynh, was taken into custody on Monday on the same count.

Also on Monday, Thanh Nien correspondent Viet Chien and his Tuoi Tre counterpart Van Hai were arrested in Hanoi for their coverage of the PMU18 scam.

They were also charged with “abuse of power.” Chien had used Quac as one of the major sources for his PMU18 stories.

When the PMU18 story broke in 2006, Quac was tasked with investigating Bui Tien Dung, the then chief of PMU18 under the Ministry of Transport, for illegal gambling.

Dung was then arrested in 2006 on charges of gambling away US$759,800 in state funds.

He was also accused of offering nearly VND1.2 billion ($75,000) in bribes to cover up his alleged crimes. Deputy Minister of Transport Nguyen Viet Tien was also arrested in April that year.

Minister of Transport Dao Dinh Binh tendered his resignation a short while later.

But the charges against Tien were dropped last March and he was reinstated as a Communist Party member this month.

As the PMU18 investigation was expanded in 2007, Quac retired.

Following the PMU18 investigation, several informal sources accused general Quac and his subordinate Huynh of divulging confidential information pertaining to the investigation.

Others also accused Quac of capitalizing on the media to pursue personal gains.

At that time, Quac denied all allegations against him, saying his actions were by no means personally motivated.

Speaking with Thanh Nien yesterday, Quac said he was very disappointed over the possible charges.

He said he hoped he would be vindicated soon.

During Quac’s tenure as the chief of the Central Social Crimes Department, he was credited with helping to expose many of the country’s biggest criminals, including the country’s most notorious mob boss Nam Cam, who was executed in 2004.

Quac was once hailed as a hero for his vital role in exposing the PMU18 scam.

Reporter’s wife requests bail for jailed husband

Thanh Nien newspaper and the wife of Nguyen Viet Chien, the media agency’s reporter, submitted a letter to the Ministry of Public Security and the Supreme People’s Procuracy yesterday asking for the reporter to be bailed from custody during the investigation period.

According to Chien’s wife, his health has been worsening recently, including harboring symptoms of excessive stress, colitis, heart diseases and hemorrhoids.

“I am afraid that he could collapse at any time in prison,” she said.

“He’s already 57 years old. I sincerely hope that officials will allow him to stay at home during the investigation. Our family guarantees that he would adhere to government summons as required.”

Thanh Nien - May 15, 2008