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Trial date set for PetroVietnam corruption case

Released at: 09:38, 25/02/2018

Trial date set for PetroVietnam corruption case

Former PetroVietnam Chairman Dinh La Thang at a trial last month (Photo from news.zing.vn)

Seven former officials of State-owned energy giant to face trial from March 19.

by Quang Huy

Trial dates have been set for seven former officials of the State-owned energy giant PetroVietnam over losses of VND800 billion ($35 million).

The ten-day trial for Dinh La Thang, former Chairman and a once-rising political star, and six of his subordinates will be held from March 19 at the Hanoi People’s Court.

Thang, as well as former Deputy Director Nguyen Xuan Son and four former Board members, are facing 10-20 years in jail for “deliberately violating State regulations on economic management, causing serious consequences.”

The remaining suspect, former Chief Accountant Ninh Van Quynh, has been charged with “abusing positions and/or powers to appropriate property,” for which he faces up to life imprisonment.

According to investigators, despite OceanBank’s small and inefficient operations back in 2008, Thang plowed ahead with a 20 per cent stake purchase without appraising it or reporting the venture to the then Prime Minister. This led to PetroVietnam holding a VND800 billion ($35.1 million) stake in the lender, which was completely written off when the central bank took it over in 2015.

The six other suspects are being prosecuted for agreeing with Thang’s decision. Quynh has also been accused of abuse of power in appropriating property when receiving VND20 billion ($878,000) from Son in order to influence PetroVietnam’s decisions in favor of OceanBank.

Son has already been sentenced to death for his role in the OceanBank case, in September last year. At that time, his defense lawyer said his client had only been enforcing executive orders already sanctioned by Thang when the latter was at the helm of the State energy giant.

Thang himself was sentenced to 13 years in jail at a trial last month for economic management violations that caused million-dollar losses at PetroVietnam’s subsidiary, the PetroVietnam Construction Corporation (PVC). If also found guilty in the upcoming trial, he could face a combined jail term of up to 30 years; the longest term allowed under Vietnam’s Penal Code.

Thang, 57, served as PetroVietnam Chairman between 2006 and 2011 before his career took off as Minister of Transport in Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s cabinet and then Party leader of Ho Chi Minh City.

He was arrested last December after he was fired as the Ho Chi Minh City leader and voted out of the all-powerful Politburo, the Party’s decision-making body, in May, in a move that international analysts have called “unprecedented.”

His trial a month later was historic in scale and set a new milestone in Vietnam’s fight against corruption.

Communist Party General Secretary Mr. Nguyen Phu Trong has been leading the sweeping crackdown on corruption, which he recently described as being at an “all-time high”.

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