HANOI (AFP) – A Vietnamese official has been arrested for allegedly colluding with underground gangs to extort money from sand mining businesses, police said Wednesday.
Mining sand – mainly for concrete used in construction – has boomed in Vietnam in recent years, prompting warnings over overexploitation.
Authorities in communist Vietnam have begun probing the lucrative business and on Tuesday police arrested Luu Binh Nhuong, the Deputy Head of the National Assembly’s People’s Aspirations Committee.
Nhuong is accused of extortion, the ministry of public security said in a statement, in a case also involving Pham Minh Cuong, a criminal previously arrested for extracting protection money from businesses mining sand near Hanoi.
State media quoted authorities as saying Cuong had forced mining businesses to pay tens of thousands of dollars.
No information on details of the precise link between the official and Cuong was available.
Police said they searched Nhuong’s home and office and confiscated documents and other items for investigation.
In August, police arrested a senior official in An Giang, a Mekong Delta province, for allegedly taking bribes of USD50,000 from a mining firm.
The Trung Hau 68 Company mined more than 4.7 million cubic metres of sand despite having a licence to extract just a third of that, police said.
Last week, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh asked authorities to review the extraction of natural minerals, especially sand for construction.
A major report by WWF in August warned that sand mining to feed Vietnam’s construction boom is depleting resources so fast that the Mekong delta – the country’s “rice bowl” – could run out in just over a decade.