Report On The Results of the Investigation Into the SMASF
Major General Nguyen Van Hieu
Special Assistant to the Vice President
and Secretary General of the Special Investigation Committee
On Television July 14, 1972

Good evening people of the nation, generals, and fellow soldiers. On April 4, I had the opportunity to report on some of the initial results of the investigation of SMASF.

Today, as has been announced, in my capacity as Secretary General of the Special Investigation Committee and in accordance with orders from the Vice President of the Republic of Viet Nam, the Chairman of the Committee, I will continue by reporting on some new findings which the Investigation Committee has made after more than three months of work.

Because of their sensitive nature and because the Committee is continuing to carry out its responsibilities, there are a number of issues which, although they are rather important, it is not yet convenient to make public.

Before getting to the new report, I would like to return to the two issues which we have touched on previously. They are:

= Bookkeeping gaps in the receipts and expenditures of the Fund;

= Legal deficiencies of the organization with regard to involvement in business enterprises.

I. The Bookkeeping Issue

As you now, the deduction of saving money began in January 1968. Every soldier in the regular forces and in the regional forces each month had to contribute 100 piasters. With a force level of about one million persons, naturally, during the period, the amount of capital belonging to the association grew into a rather considerable fortune which no commercial or industrial organization or association in the country, now or in the future, can rival.

Charged with such a great fortune, with the capital increasing by several billion piasters every year, those with responsibility should, at the minimum, have paid attention to careful bookkeeping of receipts and expenditures, keeping structure, from the moment the deductions began.

Regretfully, this work was not done in a desirable way. Here is some concrete evidence.

Units received orders to make deductions beginning in January 1968; but essential instructions regarding how to carry out bookkeeping were not issued in time.

And, it was not until May 9, 1969--17 months later--that the Defense Ministry issued instructions giving the regulations for collecting savings contributions from the units and regulations for recording these at the central level.

That lateness, naturally, had the following consequences:

= Continuous shortages;

= At the beginning, each place started keeping its books in its own style;

= In the first two years, in the units (more than 400 units throughout the country) as well as at the center, the expenditure account books are not clear, are undated, and also do not follow any fixed rules.

That situation has made the task of auditing the whole impossible to realize as of now--from the time we began until the present. The result is that we have been forced to accept the figures that were published in the account books of the two following years.

As every person can judge, once the accounts of SMASF are regularly compiled, from that moment, with procedures and continuity, without letting any article escape, once all the relevant books are carefully examined in a clear manner and regularly, are inspected and watched over to the limit by responsible authorities, and are adequately kept from beginning to end, then even though there are instigators of abuses it is also difficult for them to realize their desires; or, if losses have arisen, then those losses to the Association will not be of a serious degree.

On the other hand, if these actions are neglected, for some reason or another, then abuses and losses cannot be avoided, particularly when daily receipts and expenditures are so large.

When examining the accounting of receipts and expenditures for the units, the purpose of the Investigation Committee is to confirm the following two figures:

= First, the grand total of capital in savings contributions which units throughout the country truly took in, from January 1968 until now.

= Then the total amount paid by the Fund, since 1968, to reimburse members quitting it or to give assistance to the heirs of dead or missing members.

The former Defense Minister reported:

= Total of capital received: 3,267,631,583 Piasters as of December 31, 1971.

= Total of reimbursements and assistance as mentioned above: 307,774,719 Piasters as of December 31, 1971, broken down as follows:

= Years of 1968-1969: 14,487,672 Piasters.

= Years of 1970-1971: 293,287,047 Piasters.

The above figures show a big difference between the first and last two years: The expenditure for 1970-1971 was 20 times that for the first two years.

To ascertain whether there was any loss involved in the two figures above, it is necessary to check with the units. But such an operation was not as simple as it would seem. Here are the reasons:

According to instruction No. 9.238 of May 9, 1969 of the Defense Ministry, the fundamental documents confirming the capital received are:

= The monthly pay by the units to the soldiers with their signatures.

= And the administrative certificates for the savings contributions deducted during the months concerned.

The Investigation Committee has conducted an audit operation at a number of units. It appears that nearly all of them no longer have the two above documents in their files, especially for the years of 1968 and 1969. Reasons given: The war situation, four years have elapsed, units have moved, etc., and above all, they did not receive instructions from the Defense Ministry as reported above.

The investigation teams also met with similar difficulties in checking figures related to reimbursements and assistance.

Consequently, there was only a solution: To find out the actual accounting situation at the central level. But the investigation also met with difficulty because of the lack of account books for the first two years.

Here is the proof:

In every kind of accounting, private or public, commercial or associative, the basic accounting documents is always the Journal of Receipts and Expenditures.

The Central accounting section of SMASF is administrative company No. 6. This company belongs to Administrative and Finance Service No. 6, Saigon. Its chief is also the Association's Treasurer.

The central accounting section has submitted to the Investigation Committee two Journals of Receipts and Expenditures of the Fund:

= The first, for the years 1968 and 1969.

= The second, for the years 1970 and 1971 and onwards

The first one was completely irregular and may be considered as having no value. Here are irregularities in the Journal of Receipts and Expenditures for the years 1968-69:

= The Journal was not paginated and signed by the Chairman or Secretary General of the Fund on its first and last pages. Therefore, it could be changed or altered at any moment;

= Only 12 of 150 pages were used for two years of receipts and expenditures. The remaining pages were left in blank; such as fact proved there was no daily and continuous entry of receipts and expenditures.

= There were only four (4) balance sheets for these two years, the first at the end of December 1968 and three others at the end of October, November, and December, 1969, instead of one balance sheet for each month and for each of the two years.

= The computation was made by a NCO of the Administrative Company and examined by the company commander of this unit. Such an operation should have been normally done by the Treasurer of the Association and verified by the Chairman or Secretary General of SMASF.

Let us go on to the second journal.

The second Journal show some improvements. It is paginated and signed by the Secretary General; there is a balance sheet for each month.

But as with the first journal, computation and verification were done by the two persons mentioned above just as during the first two years.

When asked about such an accounting situation, the concerned officials gave the following explanations:

= Lack of personnel at the Central Accounting Section;

= There were no instructions from higher authorities at the beginning;

= Additionally, there has never been any inspection or control by the Board of Administration.

When "Refunds" and "Cash Assistance" were examined, the Central Accounting Section submitted to the Investigation Committee alphabetical registers and two school exercise books.

But the alphabetical registers were also irregular because of added and altered figures.

In the two school exercise books, there were entries for the sums the Fund had sent to the units for refund and assistance purposes during the past four years. And the accounting section based on those two books its report to the Defense Ministry which submitted them to the Investigation Committee.

Let us have a look at these "Refund" and "Cash Assistance" books.

Of course, such a kind of accounting book cannot be authentic and sincere. Therefore, our committee can hardly ascertain their correctness or error.

Eventually there was only one way: to accept the given figures and the final balance sheet.

In the face of such shortcomings, it must be acknowledged that the SMASF Managing Board has not in fact fulfilled its mission during the previous four years.

Even though we have sought explanations and have been accommodating, it is difficult to explain and defend these actions.

II. Legal Shortcomings

Let us pass to the second part, the organization's legal shortcomings, when it ventured into the world of business.

If the SMASF Managing Board had only been concerned about receiving contributions and deposing them in fixed deposit accounts, the loss or misuse of savings could not have occurred at the central level; any loss or misappropriation could have occurred at the unit level only.

The reason: All receipts and transfers are registered at the Treasury and banks, and they can be checked at any moment, even after a long period of time has elapsed.

Loss, abuse or embezzlement could only take place at the central level when the Board of Managers was allowed to cast money into construction, purchases, and the founding of a bank and companies.

It is an objective assessment which everyone has to accept.

Objectively speaking, that SMASF stepped into a new, so-called "business" phase with the following goals:

= Increase in the interest rate in order to be able to expand the mutual aid to its members.

= Contribute more actively in the development of the post-war economy.

= And, to avoid the effects of the depreciation of the piaster,

is not a program without significance.

We have to admit that this is a worthwhile plan if it is carried out with guarantees and in goodwill and if done solely in the interest of the soldiers, owners of the capital.

Regretfully, what took place was completely different.

The basic factor is the "legal" issue since when an organization lacks a legal basis, it cannot continue to carry out a firm and lasting operation.

If it has to use dodges and resort to disguised methods to avoid what the law forbids, the damage becomes greater and more easily inflicted, particularly when money mounts up in a huge sum as the case of SMASF.

Regarding the decision to go into business made by the SMASF Board of Managers, the Special Investigation Committee remarked that the Board had made two important mistakes, as follows:

1st mistake:

The Fund's purchase of shares in the two government-owned enterprises, COGIVINA and SICOVINA, and establishment of the Commercial-Industrial Bank and four new companies: VICCO, VINAVATCO, ICICO, and FOPROCO, for a total of VN$ 1,232,753,000 was against the law and ran counter to regulations for associations.

The former Minister of Defense explained that the above "business" decision was completely legal. However, we ask your permission to produce the following facts as evidence to confirm that it was against the law in force.

1st proof: The only decree law in force giving the regulations for the establishment of associations in the country is ordinance No. 10 dated August 6, 1950.

In Article 1, this ordinance explicitly forbids associations to have activities the purpose of which is to "divide up income."

Isn't using the Association's capital of nearly VN$1.3 billion to buy shares, establish a bank and found companies an activity which has the purpose of allowing enjoyment of dividends and "dividing up income?"

2nd proof:

Although the Association is a legal entity, and although there are shares outstanding worth nearly VN$1.3 billion which belong to the Association, on all the certificates executed at the office of the Saigon Notary Public the one who registered the above shares was not the Association acting as a corporate body but Lt. General Nguyen Van Vy and a number of others who registered them in their private capacities.

The only reason: Since the notary public could not make out a certificate contrary to ordinance No. 10, which would have been the case had he allowed the Association to register the shares, such a "disguised" method was used.

Although afterwards the parties concerned signed papers transferring their shares to the Association by a pledge, these were "private certificates," while at the Office of the Notary Public the original certificates are still maintained in an unchanged status because the notary public cannot transfer them to the association since that would be against the law.

3rd proof:

But letter No. 2960 dated August 27, 1970, the Prime Ministry drew the Defense Ministry's attention to the following two points:

= The establishment of the Fund with the purpose of yielding interest does not tally with the rules in force.

= Therefore, the Ministry needs to reconsider the legal aspects of the issue.

2nd mistake:

The second mistake which the former Minister of Defense and the SMASF Board of Mangers made when the decision was made to go into business was to disregard the above advice of the Prime Minister.

Having been given such advice, the Ministry of Defense and the Board of Mangers should have stepped new activities. On the contrary, after that, during a period of over seven months, the Defense Ministry and the Board of Mangers spent nearly VN$ 900 million of the Association's funds to buy shares in the Viet Nam Textile Company and indirectly set up four new companies. They are:

= Viet Nam Industrial Construction Company (VICCO)

= Viet Nam Transportation Company (VINAVATCO)

= Industrial and Commercial Insurance Company (ICICO)

= Food Production Company (FOPROCO)

It must be admitted that it was an adventure undertaken in quest of profit without regard to higher authorities and the possible losses for the soldiers, owners of the capital.

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I would like to move now to the main subject, that is, the discoveries about abuse, loss, and embezzlement of the savings fund.

Because the limited time available for today's report, I cannot go into all the details and deal with the entire problem.

The Investigating Committee has been able to consider only a number of cases of loss and abuse which occurred during construction projects and at some of the companies and at the Commercial Industrial Bank.

Its task has been performed not without difficulties and trouble, for the following reasons:

= Dishonest people always try to put on a semblance of honesty, especially those who are experts in a matter.

= The truth was discovered as far back as August last year; therefore, most documents and facts have been regularized and rationalized.

= Besides, there have been many preparations to cover up the situation, including reports of meetings, internal regulations and procedures previously established in an ingenious manner.

However ingenious precautions are, the dishonest intentions and absurdities cannot be denied. I'm going to report them one by one to you.

III. Construction of Buildings

This is one among many examples of embezzlement and misappropriation of the soldiers' savings and of breach of trust.

A loss of ten or one-hundred million piasters would not have been so important if the money had been contributed by a group of businessmen or industrialists for the purpose of doing business, which is a matter of risk. But, in this case, the money belongs to members of the regular and regional forces who have been risking their lives at the front. It is money saved by the needy soldiers and earned by their "blood and sweat".

For that reason, those who had authority to use that property and who were responsible for it should have displayed care and as much attention as necessary.

The office building which is locate at 8 Nguyen Hue Street was supposed to be the office of the Commercial-Industrial Bank and the four companies newly founded with SMASF capital.

Construction started in June 1969, and the RVNAF Engineering Directorate was put in charge of building the foundation by order of the former Minister of Defense.

Before dealing with cases of loss and embezzlement which have been discovered, let me mention some irregular and illegal actions noted during the construction of this huge building.

First:

The initial decision concerning construction of the building was made not by the Board of Management of SMASF but by the Minister of Defense himself.

It was not until later that the Board met to validate this decision: This is in conflict with the rule of the Association according to which the Honorary Chairman, that is the Minister of National Defense, has no authority whatsoever concerning management of the property of the Association.

Thus we see that in reality it was the Minister of Defense who held all power and the Board of Management could do nothing but follow his order.

Second:

The Ministry of Defense instructed the Engineering Directorate to demolish the old building and lay the foundation; the work was started on October 5, 1969, and was completed almost eight months later.

The work was done in great haste, for only a little more than a month elapsed between the date when the verbal order was given by the former Minister of Defense to the Engineers to study the project and the day when construction actually began.

Because of that hastiness, the plans and cost estimates were not adequate.

Third:

It was illegal to have used military resources for the project; public funds and private property cannot be considered as one and the same.

The consequence was that a major share of the cost of building the foundation, including manpower, transportation, equipment, fuel, and unreimbursed materials, was financed by the national defense budget.

Fourth:

It was not until a year later that the SMASF Board of Management approved the construction of the building and validated the decision of the former Minister of Defense. But, while approving the project, the Board was not shown a cost estimate and was not informed of the level of spending for the project. This proves that the Board was only playing the role of a "screen".

Fifth:

It is quite difficult to understand why for a project of such a scale no work appraisal and costs estimate were made. Thanks to this contractors could propose contract prices which were easily approved.

The more detailed the estimates are, the more difficult it is to lose or embezzle funds; on the contrary, without a work appraisal and cost estimate, the savings of the Association could leak out.

Sixth:

On August 14, 1969, the former Minister of Defense issued Decision No. 1815-QP/TCTT/QD, governing formation of three committee named respectively the Works Committee, the Procurement Committee, and the Control Committee, responsible for the construction of the building.

The characteristic aspect of this decision was that the former Minister of Defense was granted all powers pertaining to the following:

= procurement of all the material needed for construction and installation (article 2)

= examination and approval of costs of procurement and installation services (article 3)

= approval of reports of receipt of the material and construction work (article 4)

= examination of records of payment, signing and issuing checks for payment to contractors (article 5)

Such a concentration of power was very hard to understand, and it was quite in conflict with the regulations of the Association.

Seventh:

According to the internal regulations, major expenses must be approved by the Board of Management which issues payment checks bearing the signatures of the Cashier, the Secretary General, and the Chairman of the Board of Management, the former Minister of Defense not being one of them.

On the other hand, the Association's funds must not go into personal accounts to be kept and withdrawn at any times.

Such an act would be subject to suspicion, even if the General were honest and well-intentioned.

With regard to procurement and installation, besides the contribution by the Engineers as stated above, the Procurement Committee set up over sixty contracts and purchase orders in all.

We have examined only two of those contracts and have discovered several sums of money which were lost and embezzled in a flagrant manner.

Necessary documents and manuscripts have been collected to be included in record of investigation but because of limited time, we cannot go through them one by one.

A. Procurement and installation of four elevators.

First of all, I would like to deal with the procurement and installation of four elevators for the building.

A businesswoman made the successful tenders, and her bids were as follows:

= procurement of four elevators: $VN56,000,000

= installation: $VN23,000,000

= or a total of: $VN79,000,000

The contracts in question were made in January 1970.

Following are irregularities and losses:

Point 1:

Specifications of a very special type were drawn up by the responsible official with the intention of giving the contractor more privileges. They allowed the contractor to state the contract price of the work without having to furnish a detailed statement of the costs of procurement and installation of the four elevators. Therefore, the contractor could offer any price and this could be easily approved by the responsible official. The specifications also granted the contractor a down payment of 40 percent upon obtaining authorization to import the four elevators.

Point 2:

What is more important is that no criteria were set and details of the installation of the four elevators were not specified, nor were the contractors compelled to produce a technical plan for their installation when bidding for the contracts.

For this reasons, a price of 23 million piasters was asked for the contract to install the four elevators. And as a consequence of this, what are the technical factors that can be taken as a basis for approval after the contract has been carried out?

Such bizarre specifications may have never before existed in the annals of bidding in Viet Nam.

Point 3:

The former Defense Minister is known to have intervened with the Ministry of Economy for the import of four Hitachi elevators from Japan at the parallel exchange rate of 275 piasters for one dollar. The Ministry of Economy rejected the proposal of the Defense Minister and recommended that the latter request the ENGINECO Company to apply for import of Otis elevators from the United States at a lower exchange rate of 118 piasters per dollar, which would be much more beneficial for the Association

The superiority of Otis elevators over the Hitachi was stressed in a technical report as follows: .

= The Otis elevators are less expensive thanks to lower exchange rate: they are also noted for being of a higher quality than Hitachi elevators.

= Better and easier maintenance can be provided for the Otis elevators because they are in common use while the Hitachi are being imported for the first time in Viet Nam.

But having disregarded the advantages offered by the use of Otis elevators, the former Defense Minister intervened again with the Ministry of Economy for issuance of an import license to a business woman, authorizing the latter to import four Hitachi elevators and exempting her from making a deposit for this import.

Finally, the Ministry of Economy had to yield to the Defense Minister's request.

But, there was a strange thing in this affair, because the name of another importer was put on the two import licenses for the four elevators.

This company imported the elevators and then sold them to the businesswoman who had won the contract bid.

As a consequence of this, SMASF had to squander about 18,000,000 piasters. This resulted from the difference between the two exchange rates and an additional commission charge paid to the other importer.

It must be concluded that the squandering of such a big sum of money had no other purpose than giving a helping hand to the successful contractor.

SMASF came from the sweat of the troops. It is then unthinkable that other person could squander their savings.

Point 4:

If the Defense Ministry had itself applied for the import license, or had requested the Central Logistics Agency to import the four elevators, a big sum of money could have been "saved" for the benefit of the soldiers.

The Central Logistics Agency is a Government agency. There is no reason for it to be considered less trustworthy or less reliable than a contractor. This shortcoming is extremely difficult to understand.

Point 5:

The end result of the affair above was the selling of the four elevators to the owner of the building with, according to investigation of the files, a profit of at least 17,000,000 piasters for the businesswoman. This amount did not include the commission charge paid to the importer of the elevators.

Although she did not have to make any deposit for the import of the elevators, nor was she the direct importer, that businesswoman was advanced 23,000,000 piasters eight months before delivery of the elevators. Although she was only an intermediary, yet she made a flat profit of 17,000,000 piasters. This cannot be accepted.

This was the consequence of a non-detailed contract.

Point 6:

With regard to the amount spent for the installation of the four elevators, the Investigation Committee is still unable to determine the amount lost, for the two following reasons:

= The absence of an installation project with technical details made it impossible to know the amount squandered.

= Only with the help of experts could the matter of technical details be examined.

In any case, the established fact was that the tender was too high in comparison with the market price at that time; moreover, when misappropriation of funds is so obvious in the supply end, similar irregularities are unavoidable in installation expenditures.

Who shared the above-mentioned huge sum of money? The investigation is as yet unable to determine this; but even if there had been results attained, it would not be convenient yet to disclose them.

B. Supply and installation of thirteen air conditioners for the building

The person who won the bid for the contract was also a businesswoman. The tender amounted to 106,000,000 piasters, the details of which follow:

= 50,000,000 piasters for supply of 13 air conditioners;

= 56,000,000 piasters for installation cost.

Point 1:

With regard to the specification, just as in the supply and installation of four elevators, the contractor was paid in advance 40 percent of the total amount of this contract after he was issued an import license. There was no installation project nor detailed statement of the cost because all was calculated in a lump sum.

Point 2:

The investigation revealed that SMASF suffered a loss of about 19 million piasters in the matter of the contract to supply 13 air conditioners. The loss was confirmed by documents and instruments in writing found during the investigation. That huge sum of 19 million piasters was considered as having been "misappropriated" or "lost resulting from breach of trust".

Point 3:

Regarding the installation of 13 air conditioners and the four elevators, the Investigation Committee still has been unable to determine the exact amount of loss. However, indications of irregularities can be noted at once by a mere glance at the losses noted in supply and such a big total amount for the contract.

The 56-million-piaster cost incurred in the installation of 13 air conditioners at 1970 prices is difficult to accept, especially when there was no installation project that could be used as a criterion on which control of the operation might be based.

IV. Irregularities Noted in the VICCO Case

Now, we will deal with VICCO, the Viet Nam Industrial Construction Corporation. According to our investigation, this corporation may face bankruptcy if the section in charge of regularizing SMASF accounts does not intervene to straighten out the situation. Following is a typical case of the losses and irregularities which have occurred in the management of VICCO. Because of time limitations, we cannot present all the problems involving this Corporation; we will raise only a number of major cases here.

Case 1: Purchase of a stock of aluminum doors known to be stolen goods and violation of the customs law.

Following are the results of the investigation with regard to VICCO in the purchase of 2,069 aluminum doors for 17,240,500 piasters, now considered as a loss suffered by SMASF.

Point 1: Origin of the stock of doors.

The investigation revealed that 2,069 aluminum doors were stolen from US Special Forces in Nha Trang. A private first class and a militiaman, both Vietnamese of Chinese origin, confessed that they bought the stock of doors for 6,700,000 piasters, transport fees included. The doors were shipped to Saigon and, according to a Mr. Trinh Truong Binh, they were sold to him for 14,950,000 piasters. These figures were given in testimony by the concerned persons, but in reality a stock of goods stolen and violating customs laws could not be bought and sold at these prices. The stock of doors had no legal documentation.

Point 2: Ties between Mr. Trinh Truong Binh and former Defense Minister LTG Nguyen Van Vy.

Mr. Binh is the brother-in-law of LTG Nguyen Van Vy. Mrs. Binh, whose maiden name is Nguyen thi Chuyen, is LTG Vy's younger sister.

Point 3: How it was that VICCO disbursed over 17 million piasters for the purchase of the illegal stock of doors.

According to the assistant to the Director General of the Corporation, the purchase of the stock of doors was an irrational act, as seen from the following:

= The purpose of the purchase did not meet the real needs of the Corporation; the stock of doors was purchased in May 1971, and since that date has been kept in a warehouse, unused.

= For this reason, the stock has suffered damage.

= Usual bidding procedures were not followed. The price, amounting to 17,240,500 piasters, was fixed beforehand and accepted quickly, and no explanations were given.

= No move was made to learn the origin of the stock of doors, or to demand papers concerning the stock before the decision was made to purchase it.

= The Corporation accepted the invoice issued by Trinh Truong Binh, although it was not in order and had no commercial value.

The stock of doors was sold by Mr. Binh to the Corporation for 17,240,500 piasters.

The assistant to the Director General of VICCO affirmed before the Investigation Committee that according to written documents and to what he knew, it was former Defense Minister LTG Nguyen Van Vy who gave LTG (retired) Le Van Kim, Director General of the corporation an order to purchase this stolen stock of doors at the price mentioned above.

Point 4: Profits resulting from the purchase and sale of the stock of aluminum doors.

According to the testimony of the persons concerned and the above mentioned figures:

= The two Vietnamese servicemen mention above made a profit of 8,250,000 piasters, but it is certain that their gains were much bigger, and it is also evident that they could not keep just for themselves such huge profits.

= As for Mr. Binh, he admitted that he had made a 2,290,000-million-piaster profit, but in reality this gain might be bigger. His gain was also LTG Nguyen Van Vy's because of their familial ties, as noted earlier.

Point 5: Heavy losses suffered by VICCO must also be SMASF losses including 180 million piasters spent for the establishment of VICCO on March 11, 1971. According to a report made by the corporation on March 22, 1972, only 336,308 piasters out of the original 180-million-piaster starting capital remain on current account. The majority of what remains of the corporation's capital is comprised of goods stored in warehouses, among them the stolen stock of doors.

The situation at SMASF can be considered as really pessimistic.

As a consequence of this, who will be the victims of the loss, if not the personnel of the regular army and regional forces who must be considered the shareholders of the 180,000,000-piaster capital of VICCO?

And the Government officials accountable for this shady affair are no other than the former Defense Minister and members of VICCO's Board of Directors.

B. Case 2: Purchase of 650 tons of steel from Hung Nam Company.

Following is the second typical case of misuse of funds committed by the VICCO Corporation managed by LTG Le Van Kim:

On May 13, 1971, Mr. Kim signed a contract with Hung Nam Company for a purchase of 650 tons of steel. Losses for VICCO resulted from this, or in other words, losses for SMASF.

Point 1: VICCO's need for steel.

According to a colonel, an assistant to the Director General of VICCO, about 10 tons of steel were used monthly by the Corporation.

Before the 650-ton steel contract was signed with the Hung Nam Company, VICCO still had in stock 300 tons of steel that might have covered the corporation's needs for at least three years. For this reason, a new supply of 650 tons of steel might meet the demands of the Company for another six to nine years. Thus, it is evident that this new supply did not make sense. This is from the testimony of the assistant to the Director General of VICCO.

Point 2: VICCO runs out of operation funds, because of excess stock-piling.

Excess stock-piling, including the stock of aluminum doors, led the Company into a 50-million-piaster debt, which the Company had to ask for from the Bank in order to continue in operation.

Thus, the Company lost this sum and also had to pay additional interest to the Bank.

Point 3: Unreasonable interest rate.

If VICCO had made a direct contract with the LUCIA Company for the delivery of 650 tons of steel products, it would not have had to pay over three million piasters in commission charges to the Hung Nam Company.

The assistant to the Director General of VICCO has confirmed this loss.

Point 4: The price of the structural steel was bout ten piasters higher per kilogram than the market price.

The Hung Nam Company, besides a commission of over VN$3,000,000, also had the opportunity to receive a further large sum of money from sales at a higher price to the Company.

Figuring from the amount of steel sold, the Hung Nam Company made an extra profit of VN$6,000,000.

In summary, by $9,000,000; this sum of money was lost due to the arrangements of the Director General of the Company and the Director himself.

Point 5: The family relationship between the two entities contracting to sell the structural steel.

The Director of the Hung Nam Company is Mrs. Le Thi Thuong, the younger sister of retired LTG Le Van Kim, the Director General of VICCO.

The main office and telephone of the Hung Nam Company are the private residence and private telephone of Mr. Le Van Kim.

For that reason, the supplier and the orderer are one and the same.

With a business arrangement like that, how can there remain sufficient capital belonging to the soldiers? How can SMASF be guaranteed a level of profit higher than the interest received from depositing funds in a bank?

The answer is left to those who took the initiative in investing the money to carry on the affair.

C. Case 3: VICCO has used military facilities to enable it to outbid civilians.

The investigation has revealed that in drawing up a contract to set up six Diesel engines in Bien Hoa, the VICCO Company used many facilities belonging to the RVNAF Engineers.

This abuse has generated many expenses for the National Defense budget. But, the benefits certainly do not accrue to SMASF.

Naturally, the new Minister of National Defense had to stop that business, because it was contrary to regulations and caused losses to the national budget.

V. Losses in the Purchase of 35,000 Shares of Stock in the COGIVINA Corporation

We wish to mention another important loss, which resulted from the purchase by SMASF of 35,000 shares of the Viet Nam Paper Corporation (COGIVINA) at the end of 1969, VN$142,561,540.

The affair developed as follows:

On December 26, 1969, the amendment of the by-laws of SMASF giving SMASF permission to purchase corporate stocks, had just been approved. Only three days later, SMASF spent VN$142,561,540 to purchase 35,000 shares of COGIVINA stock owned by an American company.

The affair show us how hurried and how little preparation there was.

Although the work was cleverly done in every formality, when we consider the principle of defending the "savings" funds of SMASF we cannot possibly see it as an action that received the consideration and concern normally required of the people who have administrative responsibility for the property of the soldiers.

Point 1:Approving the purchase for a sum nearly three times the current market price.

The price per share at that time was only VN$1,400. But the new Minister of Defense approved the purchase of 35,000 shares in COGIVINA at a price of VN$4,000 per share.

If you want to interpret the matter, you have to base yourself on the principles of the people who have sacrificed so much to save that money; but you cannot base yourself on the position of the government or of the Ministry of Economy.

The above action caused the Society to lose VN$91 million because of the difference between the two prices.

How many soldiers must save over how many months and years to save that VN$91 million? We must ask this question before we can decide on and approve business adventurism like that.

Point 2: The additional fees paid to the sellers of the stock.

Having approved purchase at an additional cost of VN$91 million they also agreed to pay an additional VN$1,561,540 to the sellers of the stock to cover the expenses of transfer and postage.

Given actions like that, regardless of the clarifications or explanations offered, it would be difficult to establish any real feeling of defending the interests of the people whose money this really was.

Point 3: At present, how is it possible to have enough capital remaining?

In theory, the value of the stock has risen to VN$4,000 per share.

But this is only a theoretical sum. And what assurance is there that the Liquidation Committee which has just come into existence will be able to resell a number of shares for the sum that the Society spent nearly three years ago (VN$142,561,540)? Who will buy them?

Point 4: Understanding the true current value of each share of stock.

According to the former Defense Minister, SMASF made big profits by purchasing shares in COGIVINA, thanks to the rise in value of each share to 4,000 piasters.

In order to ascertain the number of 4,000-piaster COGIVINA shareholders, the Investigation Committee looked into the list of shareholders of the company on April 26, 1972.

This investigation revealed that as of April 26, 1972, there were 63 shareholders registered at SMASF.

This means that as of the above mentioned date, there had been no purchasers of the new 4,000-piaster shares.

For this reason, the purchase of 4,000-piaster stock shares still remains in its theoretical phase.

Point 5: Illegal subscription to shares by Col. Do Tung.

Col. Do Tung was also appointed to COGIVINA's managerial board. This appointment was not valid because he was not a member of SMASF's managerial board. Normally, a member of the managerial board of a Corporation must come from the Corporation itself.

Now, we will tackle the problem of misusing military saving funds in the two following fields:

= Special detachment of military personnel to the Commercial Industrial Bank and to six other military-managed business corporations.

= Misuse on a large scale of the Commercial Industrial Bank's capital.

VI. Special Detachment of Military Personnel.

The special detachment of a large number of military personnel to the Commercial Industrial Bank and to six other military-managed business corporations (COGIVINA, SICOVINA, VICCO, VINAVATCO, ICICO, and FOPROCO) entailed many misuses of funds in various fields. It brought about much injustice, and gave birth to much misappropriations of funds and losses to SMASF.

Point 1: Detailed soldiers.

The total number of detailed soldiers at the seven companies was 385 men as of April 28, 1972, broken down as follows:

= Commercial Industrial Bank: 164 soldiers (94 officers, 17 NCO's, and 50 privates).

= Viet Nam Industrial Construction Company: 77 soldiers (41 officers, 16 NCO's, and 20 privates).

= Viet Nam Transport Company: 85 soldiers (25 officers, 36 NCO's, and 24 privates).

= Industrial and Commercial Insurance Company: 12 soldiers (4 officers, 3 NCO's, and 5 privates).

= Food Production Company: 15 soldiers (7 officers, 6 NCO's and 2 privates).

= COGIVINA: 12 soldiers (10 officers and 6 NCO's).

= SICOVINA: 23 soldiers (17 officers and 6 NCO's).

Point 2: There were a number of irregular situations.

The investigation revealed the following abuses:

= There were cases of detailed soldiers who drew their salary from the companies, but who were never present at them; even popular force troops were detailed, and this was contrary to Armed Forces regulations.

= A great number of them did not possess the qualifications corresponding to their places or the special services of these companies.

By and large, there have been many abuses and underhand operations.

To be certain about the degree of these abuses, it is necessary to check the dossiers of every detailed man; a job the Liquidation Committee has not yet been able to undertake.

Point 3: The salaries and allowances of every kind were too high in relation to military pay.

Most of them received very high salaries and allowances especially at the Commercial Industrial Bank.

In addition to their basic salaries equivalent to military pay, they were also entitled to all kinds of allowances, including pay for the 13th and 14th months.

For instance, at the Commercial Industrial Bank, the lowest salary was VN$15,000 (for single clerk) and the highest was VN$75,500 (for captains exercising the function of Director). At the remaining companies, the rate of compensation, including salaries and allowance, was similar.

Besides, a 13th month salary was paid, and even a 14th month pay, as in the case of the Commercial Industrial Bank.

Point 4: Part of the salaries was financed by the defense budget, yet so far no reimbursement has taken place.

Payment by companies was effected in two stages:

= during the first stage, when no profit had been made, payment was insured by the Ministry of Defense; allowances were paid by the companies.

= during the second stage, when some profit had been made, salaries were aid by the companies.

At present, the companies still owe the Ministry of Defense a rather large sum.

Point 5: Due to too many privileges, the members of the Association lost a considerable amount of profit.

In general, the total of differentials and allowances of various kinds considered as privileges for detailed servicemen amounted to over 60 million piasters.

This amount is the profit obtained, and they should have reserved it for the soldiers who were risking their lives on the battlefield rather than to secure their own peaceful enjoyment of life at those companies.

Now we would like to pass on to the question of losses and misuse of power the investigation has detected in the management of Commercial Industrial Bank.

VII. How Corrupt officials Have Misused Their Authority While Managing the Commercial Industrial Bank (CIB)

The foundation of the CIB was legal.

Through the figures for deposits and loans by the Bank, we can see the intense activity of the Bank if we examine its purely commercial side. If we examined the aspect of bringing appropriate and full profits to the soldiers who have contributed to the initial capital bank of the Bank, and if we make thorough investigation of the Bank's management, we will easily see the fishy and sophisticated tricks of a clique of powerful officials who have used the capital of others for their own profit.

A. Capital and dividend

SMASF paid VN$249,300,000 (99.72 percent of the capital) when the Commercial Industrial Bank was founded in March 1970.

Legally speaking, SMASF is a private organization. By virtue of Article 1 of Decree No. 10 dated August 6, 1950, all operations aiming at dividing its dividends are forbidden.

For this reason, to use the capital of SMASF to set up a Bank camouflage under whatever name, is a blatant misuse of power no matter what individual runs the Bank. If the Bank managers had succeeded in getting adequate profits for the contributors it would have been good. But on the contrary, we can say the soldier gets only one piaster as benefit while the profiteers get ten!

Now, we make mention of dividends. Following is Report No. 004-QP/TCTT/NCKH of April 28, 1972 (it was the last one) from Major Pham Van Chung, Chief of Section 6 of the Defense Ministry on the question of dividends.

Dividends
"Since SMASF has put capital into enterprises, it only received VN$14,958,000 as dividends for fiscal year 1970 from the CIB. It is known that it will also get fiscal year 71's dividends soon."

Of the $1,232,753,051 capital invested, only small dividends were generated by the CIB. The capital disbursed specifically for the establishment of this Bank, which amounted to some 250 million piasters, only brought in 15 million to the soldiers. This certainly did not meet the expectations of the contributors.

B. Personnel and operational costs

The misuse of personnel and financial resources at the CIB is one of the topics that merits special attention.

The 1971 report of the Industrial and Commercial Bank discloses the following figures:

= Expenditures for personnel $38,119,000

= Expenditures for foreign transactions 19,431,000

=Overall expenditures
(purchases, equipment, etc,) 25,744,000

Total $83,285,000

As mentioned above, many inequitable acts and abuses were committed with regard to the detailed servicemen's status. The military contributors had sustained much loss because of these abuses: One party had "invested" all its savings and the other party merely enjoyed and wasted the fruit of "the investment."

To give an example, according to the CIB's report, the fees paid to the Management Committee (the Managers) amounted to VN$16,149,398 for 1971. The sum even exceeds the 1971 dividends given to SMASF (VN$14,958,000).

The servicemen's capital is quite different from normal bank deposits, and the Management Committee should not have put the two on the same footing, had it only had some common sense or really cared about the soldiers.

The question is how long it took for some thousands of soldiers to "save"VN$249,300,000 spent in the end on commercial transactions by the decision of a small group of people who received the greatest benefit.

Had the CIB's Management Committee and Board of Directors been thrifty (as the fund contributors were), the dividends collected by the Fund would have been much higher.

This caused a serious leak in the Fund's budget.

C. Deposit and loan

According to the report, as of March 15, 1972, the status of deposits and loans at the CIB was as follows:

= Deposits: 6,885 billion piasters

= Loans: 4,548 billion piasters

At first sight, the deposit figure gives one the impression that the Bank has gained a big clientele, if deposits by SMASF, the 6th Administration and Military Services Company, and the ARVN Commissary are subtracted from the figure, however, the remaining ratio representing deposits by private individuals would be only 3:5.

Thus, the total amount deposited by private individuals is: 3,964 billion piasters;

and that deposit by military agencies is: 2,921 billion piasters.

With regard to loans, the total of unsecured loans reported as of March 15, 1972 was 1,375 billion piasters.

Although it is true that bank loans involve risks, that the action depends on the decision of the board of directors and pertains to its power, and that it is not prohibited by statute, by-laws, and regulations of a bank, confusion between the two following types of business should be avoided:

= In the general case, which applies to all banks, a group of businessmen contribute funds to set up a bank. The capital is theirs; it is they who formulate the by-laws, elect the managing committee and the board of directors. It is they who decide on loans and accept the risks, benefit from the profits and bear the losses;

= But this case is quite different. The capital does not belong to the Managing Committee or the Board of Directors. Instead, 99.72 percent of it derives from the contributions by the soldiers. Judging from the points of view of rights, interests, responsibilities, and possible losses, the two cases cannot be equated.

This is the soldiers' bank.

In the event of profit, the soldiers would benefit from only a small part of it, even less than the interest from 250 million piasters of deposits each year.

The rest is composed of expenses for personnel, general expenses, remuneration received by managers, etc., and that is the great dividend!

If there was a commission on the loan (everybody knows that there was that profit), the Board of Managers, the intermediaries, etc., received all of it while the soldier did not receive one piaster.

If the loan was not paid because of a certain reason or event, no one would suffer besides the soldier who lost both capital and interest.

In short, the two cases are quite different from each other for the above mentioned reasons. Everyone knows that on the present business market, any loan without security gives rise to a commission:

= A commission for the guarantor;

= A commission for the Board of Managers or the introducer;

= The easier the conditions and the larger the sum of money, the greater the commission.

From that unofficial commission that amounted to hundreds of millions of piasters every year, how much has the soldier, the owner of the capital, received two years after the creation of the CIB?

Ma Hi, the Commission Affairs Director at the CIB affirmed that he had introduced or stood as guarantor for loans amounting to 1.2 billion piasters. As Director for Commission Affairs, he received commissions for introducing borrowers. The official commission received by him amounted to 15 percent of the total interest the borrower had to pay to the Bank. On the other hand, since he stood as guarantor for the borrower if for a certain reason the borrower could not reimburse the Bank, he would have to pay compensation amounting to 20 percent of the total loan. He was averaging 15 to 30 million piasters in official commissions yearly.

He has further stated that of the total loans he only handled about 30 percent of Vietnamese clients of Chinese descent. As for the remaining 70 percent, they dealt directly with the Board of Managers (Messrs. Nguyen Chanh Ly and Huynh Van Dao). Mr. Ly himself asked the Defense Ministry to detail a Vietnamese serviceman of Chinese descent named Huynh Sieu to serve as interpreter for the Board of Managers.

He confirms that the Managing Committee received as a matter of course some commission for these direct transactions.

In conclusion, during its two years of activity, the CIB has gained "dividends" for SMASF.

But the profits are insignificant, and there has been nothing which can be called noticeable "achievement". Meanwhile, several cases of abuse "as reported" have occurred or might have occurred, but all of them, as Ma Hi has said, have been difficult to discover because all the papers are legal.

Anyway, such large, unsecured loans cannot be regarded as an action worth encouraging and aimed at absolutely protecting "the rights and interests" and the "capital" of the soldiers.

Fortunately, everything has been smooth; had funds been misappropriated because of some event or for any other reason, who would have incurred the loss?

Such a Managing Committee and such a Board of Directors cannot be regarded as "ideal" for the interests of the soldiers who have contributed the funds.

The records of investigation of the first phase carried out by the Special Investigation Team will be submitted to the President of Viet Nam with recommendations for necessary sanctions for his final decision.

(English translation provided by American Embassy, Saigon, copied from document kept at President Ford's Library).


General Hieu revealed that he had accomplished this complex investigation practically alone and wrote the report himself since his staff comprised only him and an aid: "In May 1972, Hieu told Embassy officers that the anti-corruption campaign was getting nowhere and that the cabinet Ministers and the Prime Minister were not cooperating with him. Hieu stated that his staff consisted of himself and one aide which was totally inadequate." (Biographic Data on MG Nguyen Van Hieu)

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