Vietnam police arrest top official over illicit sand mining

HANOI: Police in Vietnam arrested a top local official on Monday (Dec 25) in an investigation into illegal sand mining, the government said.

Mining sand – mainly for concrete used in building – has boomed in Vietnam in recent years, prompting dire warnings over the environmental impact of overexploitation.

Nguyen Thanh Binh, the head of the people’s committee in An Giang province in the Mekong Delta – a hotspot for sand mining – was arrested on suspicion of abuse of power, the Ministry of Public Security said in a public announcement.

Binh, 59, had “abused his power, intervened and made orders so that the Trung Hau 68 Company could over-exploit sand in An Giang … pocketing a huge sum of money”, the statement said, without giving further details.

The official, holding the highest position in the province since May 2019, had his office and home searched on Sunday and Monday, police said.

Police said earlier that 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.

In August, authorities took Binh’s deputy into custody for reportedly taking bribes of US$50,000 in the same scandal, which has seen more than a dozen officials and businesspeople arrested.

In a WWF study in August, experts 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.

With less sand, river flows become lighter and faster and hit the banks at greater speed, speeding erosion.

In mid-November, police arrested an official for reportedly colluding with gangs to extort money from sand-m

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