The export of Israeli security weapons and equipment to Vietnam may face difficulties after the Vietnamese police last week announced the probe and arrest of businessman Nguyen Thi Thanh Nhan, a Vietnamese citizen. She is believed to be an intermediary between the two countries’ trade deals. Israel’s Haaretz news site on May 1 has an analysis of this arrest.
The Investigative Police Agency of Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security on April 29 issued a decision to probe and an arrest warrant for temporary detention against Ms. Nguyen Thi Thanh Nhan – former chairwoman of the Board of Directors cum General Director of AIC Company (AIC International Progress Joint Stock Company) in the criminal case “Violation of regulations on bidding, causing serious consequences” occurred at Dong Nai General Hospital, AIC Company, and other related units.
Ms. Nhan is accused, along with officials of the Dong Nai Department of Health and related companies, of rigging tenders to supply equipment to Dong Nai Hospital, causing losses of VND152 billion ($6.8 million) to the state budget.
However, according to Facebookers specializing in reporting on security in Vietnam, it seems that Ms. Nhan is currently in Japan, so she has not been arrested. The Haaretz news site said that Ms. Nhan had been in Europe for more than a year.
According to Haaretz, Ms. Nhan is an important figure and broker in a series of deals to buy and sell weapons and equipment for the Vietnamese police over the past 10 years.
Over the past 15 years, Vietnam has become an important arms export market for Israel. The two sides signed an agreement in 2011 to strengthen security cooperation, and a senior Israeli official visited Vietnam three years ago.
According to Haaretz, Israeli arms export agreements to Vietnam have reached more than $1 billion. One of the largest contracts between the two countries currently under discussion is that of the Israeli company IAI to sell to Vietnam’s military intelligence equipment Ofek intelligence satellite (also known as Horizon). This agreement with Vietnam’s Defense Ministry is worth about $550 million.
According to the Israel defense news site, Ms. Nhan is an intermediary connecting the IAI public with the Vietnamese side. In addition to IAI, two other French firms that also supply this equipment to Vietnam are Airbus and Thales.
Ms. Nhan connected IAI with Vietnam through her representative in Israel, Haya Meshel, between 2018 and 2019, and IAI has an official letter of recommendation for Hanoi. According to Israel’s defense, IAI’s equipment is not technologically equal to Thales’ equipment but is backed by the Israeli government.
According to France’s Intelligentonline, General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong decided to choose IAI’s equipment. Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, who is primarily responsible for this project, discussed this by phone with his Israeli counterpart Naftali Bennett afterward.
Nguyen Thi Thanh Nhan was reported by Intelligentonline in 2020 to be related to the arms trade between Vietnam and Israel involving corruption.
According to journalist Yossi Melman, Haaretz’s reporter, Israel is the country that has supplied weapons to Vietnam including drones, air defense systems, upgraded tanks, and missiles. An Israeli company also set up a factory in Vietnam to assemble Tavor rifles worth $100 million.
Author Yossi Melman quotes a source in Vietnam as saying that the real reason behind Nhan’s arrest was arms deals. The root reason for the arrest was the competition within the Communist Party of Vietnam between Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, President Nguyen Xuan Phuc, and Minister of Public Security To Lam.
The arrest comes just days before the 5th Plenum of the Communist Party of Vietnam’s Central Committee, which is scheduled to take place on May 4-10, where 200 members of the Central Committee will discuss important issues of the country and the party, including issues of party organization and rectification.