Another oil exec prosecuted as Vietnam's corruption purge widens

By Staff reporters   December 19, 2017 | 06:46 pm GMT+7
Another oil exec prosecuted as Vietnam's corruption purge widens
Phan Dinh Duc, a former board member of PetroVietnan, is facing charges of “deliberate violation of state regulations on economic management, causing serious consequences.” Photo courtesy of VnEconomy

Phan Dinh Duc is the latest big fish to be ensnared as the net tightens around former PetroVietnam execs.

Vietnam's top prosecutors agency has ratified charges against yet another former board member of the national oil and gas giant PetroVietnam as the country's sweeping corruption crackdown continues.

Phan Dinh Duc has been charged by the Supreme People's Procuracy with “deliberate violation of state regulations on economic management, causing serious consequences.” It is not immediately clear if Duc has been detained or placed under house arrest. 

Duc is prosecuted over allegations of mismanagement linked to investment losses in the scandal-hit OceanBank. PetroVietnam held a VND800 billion ($35 million) stake in the bank, but that was completely written off when the central bank took it over in 2015.

In September, Nguyen Xuan Sonwho served as PetroVietnam chairman from 2014 until his arrest in 2015, was sentenced to death for  appropriating VND246 billion ($13.6 million) from OceanBank. The stake PetroVietnam had bought in the bank meant Son stole VND49 billion in government money.

Duc is the latest big fish to be ensnared as the net tightens around former PetroVietnam execs.

On December 8, the country was riveted as the Ministry of Public Security arrested Dinh La Thang, Vietnam’s once-rising political star, for a series of “serious” violations and mismanagement while he was chairman of PetroVietnam from 2006 until 2011. He was kicked out of the then 19-member Politburo, the Party’s decision-making body, in May and later fired as the top leader of Ho Chi Minh City.

A day later, Thang’s younger brother Dinh Manh Thang was also arrested pending further investigations into his wrongdoings related to financial mismanagement and embezzlement at PetroVietnam Construction Joint Stock Corporation (PVC), which involves the notorious runaway Trinh Xuan Thanh, its former board chairman and general director.

Thanh is set to stand trial in January for embezzlement and violating state regulations on economic management, causing losses of around VND3.2 trillion ($147 million) at PVC.

Many other PetroVietnam execs have also been arrested and prosecuted.

PetroVietnam and the banking sector have been at the heart of Vietnam's sweeping corruption crackdown, which has been spearheaded by Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong and netted scores of officials.

Analysts are asking if the ongoing anti-graft move is the yardstick to gauge how far Vietnam is willing to clean up its much-cosseted yet ineffective public sector and how determined its top leaders are to punish high-profile individuals in a bid to repair shattered public trust.

But the major question is, how far is far enough, and how effective has the crackdown been?

“My understanding is that the top party leaders took several months to weigh the factors in the PetroVietnam case before proceeding,” Carl Thayer, an Australia-based veteran Vietnam analyst, said.

Given that, “such questions cannot be answered with certainty,” Thayer said. “It is like the proverbial question: ‘How long is a ball of string?' The answer depends on how big the ball of string is.”

 
 
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