Fallen Vietnamese political star stands second trial for $35 million loss at PetroVietnam

By Bao Ha   March 18, 2018 | 07:34 pm PT
Fallen Vietnamese political star stands second trial for $35 million loss at PetroVietnam
Dinh La Thang is taken to court in Hanoi on Monday. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy
Dinh La Thang has already been sentenced to 13 years behind bars for a separate graft case.

The former head of PetroVietnam was in the dock again on Monday accused of causing huge losses at the state-owned oil giant.

Once-rising political star Dinh La Thang is facing charges of “deliberately violating state regulations on economic management, causing serious consequences,” which carries a sentence of between 10-20 years in jail.

Thang independently plowed ahead with a 20 percent stake purchase in OceanBank in 2008 without discussing it with other board members or seeking approval from the then prime minister, the indictment said.

He was aware of the bank’s “poor capacity,” it added. The stake, worth VND800 billion ($35 million), was completely written off when the central bank took over it in 2015.

Prosecutors are holding Thang mainly responsible for the losses, but six other former executives, including PetroVietnam’s former deputy director Nguyen Xuan Son, are also standing trial as co-defendants.

Son was sentenced to death for his role in another OceanBank graft case last September. In this case, the bank’s former board chairman Ha Van Tham is accused of offering deposit rates above those set by the central bank to various customers including PetroVietnam between 2010 and 2014, causing losses of nearly VND1.6 trillion ($70.4 million).

Son, who was board chairman of PetroVietnam at the time, was found guilty of appropriating VND246 billion ($13.6 million) from the bank, which translated into VND49 billion in government money when PetroVietnam was its major shareholder.

Tham, who received a life sentence at the September trial, will also be giving evidence as a witness at the latest hearing.

The trial, which is expected to last 10 days, is Thang's second this year. He was sentenced to 13 years in jail in January also for economic management violations which caused million-dollar losses at a construction subsidiary of PetroVietnam.

Thang, 57, served as board chairman of PetroVietnam 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 being fired from his position in HCMC and voted out of the all powerful Politburo, the Party’s decision-making body, in a move that international analysts have called “unprecedented.”

His fall from grace is the biggest casualty of Vietnam’s sweeping corruption crackdown spearheaded by Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong, who has described it as at an "all time high."

go to top