How serious is corruption in the Vietnamese army’s arms sales?

Mr. Nguyen Xuan Thang, Politburo member, Director of the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics, and Chairman of the Central Theory Council met with Mr. Michael Mickey Levy, Chairman of the Israeli National Assembly during his visit to Israel from 10-14. May 2022

Vietnamese public authorities have recently issued an arrest warrant for Ms. Nguyen Thi Thanh Nhan. This woman has been probed since April 29 for wrongdoings at Dong Nai General Hospital and related units, in which Ms. Nguyen Thi Thanh Nhan plays the role of chairwoman and general director of Tien Giang Joint Stock Company. Department of International Affairs (AIC).

Thought it was just a simple corruption case, but an inquisitive Israeli newspaper said that Ms. Nhan played an important role in the arms trade between Israel and Vietnam.

A SIPRI report said that Israel is the second-largest source of weapons to Vietnam, after Russia. With such information from Haaretz, Ms. Nhan must be a “super spy,” because even in the world, such weapons sales are not easy for an ordinary person in the market to be accessible. This also explains why Ms. Nhan seems to have known in advance about being arrested to escape abroad. This is different from intelligence agents of the police like Duong Chi Dung – General Director of Vinalines, brother of high-ranking police officer Duong Tu Trong, although he escaped from Vietnam, he was still caught by the General Department of Intelligence 2 caught easily in Cambodia. Or even Lieutenant Colonel Phan Van Anh Vu (also known as Vu Nhom), even though he escaped to Singapore, was still arrested and escorted to Vietnam without much difficulty.

Recently, Russia’s Sputnik news site – which has always had a close view of the Vietnamese and Chinese governments, had to write an article to “clarify” before “rumors” that Vietnam-Israel relations are still good. Of course, the Israeli government is not foolish to lose its important customers, but sending a Politburo member, Mr. Nguyen Xuan Thang to Israel immediately, this shows the “rumors” of Haaraetz newspaper are grounded.

Along with Ms. Nhan, Van Xuan Company of the Ministry of National Defense (MND) was also recommended by the party’s Central Inspection Commission to consider responsibility. Van Xuan Company is a company established in 1991 and owned by the Defense Ministry with the main task of importing weapons, equipment, military equipment, raw materials, and specialized supplies for national defense. According to information from the US, Van Xuan Company is a company specializing in importing weapons from abroad to Vietnam. Although in the announcement, the Central Inspection Commission only gave vague reasons such as: “The Standing Committee of the Party Committee of the General Import-Export Corporation of Van Xuan, the Ministry of National Defense for the 2015-2020 term has committed a number of violations and shortcomings in formulating and organizing the implementation of working regulations; in leading, directing, inspecting and supervising the management and use of corporate capital and the performance of assigned tasks.” But many people in Vietnam believe that Van Xuan Company has been disciplined because of its importation of firearms from abroad.

Since last year, researchers from outside have known about these corruption cases, such as a French researcher named Benoît de Tréglodé – Director of Africa-Asia-Middle East region, Institute for Strategic Studies of the French Military School (IRSEM) said: “In addition, it is necessary to add another point because there are a few problems in the defense relationship between the two countries. Some sources have directly informed Party General Secretary – President Nguyen Phu Trong about many very large commissions in arms sales contracts between Israel and Vietnam and involved many people in the leadership, even within the Ministry of National Defense of Vietnam. An investigation has been opened.”

We still remember, recently, a series of Vietnamese military generals had to be searched, especially the case of seven generals in the Coast Guard who were arrested, all related to corruption, especially the procurement of weapons and means of defense.

Vietnamese defense researchers are no stranger to such corruption. Dr. Stephen Burgess – A defense expert in one of his studies said: “Russian arms dealers are accused of paying Vietnamese officials to continue buying Russian goods, which could possibly happens because officials earn only about $400 per month and have to live in an expensive Hanoi.”

It is normal to have commissions for weapons contracts according to international practice, however, sources in the Vietnamese military said, there are two issues worth noting here, one is the unusually high price for these arms delivery contracts; second its that the features of these weapons were not guaranteed to meet the requirements of the contract.

In 2014, anti-China sentiment in Vietnam rose very high after China placed its rig 981 in the exclusive economic zone of Vietnam. In order to resist pressure from China, the Vietnamese government has actively carried out activities to support fishermen, and at the same time increased the procurement of weapons. The US side estimates that from 2003 to 2018, Vietnam’s defense budget has increased by 700%. However, this is a great opportunity for “interest groups”?

In 2014, Israel transferred the production line of Galil ACE 31 and 32 guns to Vietnam. However, when using it in the field, many Vietnamese soldiers said that these weapons were very inconvenient. And then, the Defense Force had to replace another system based on the improved chain from Israel.

Such systemic corruption above shows how corrupt the Vietnamese government is. But the important thing is that when the country’s budget has to bend to equip defense to preserve and protect the country, it is likely that when the country is in danger, the Vietnamese army will show its weakness like that as the Russian army has shown in the current Ukraine battlefield. Modern equipment or weapons buy billions of dollars, sometimes just children’s toys. And so, the possibility of losing the country is very large. (Translated)