Former PetroVietnam chief asks to take blame for staff caught up in massive corruption case

By VnExpress   January 10, 2018 | 06:21 pm GMT+7
Former PetroVietnam chief asks to take blame for staff caught up in massive corruption case
Dinh La Thang, former board chairman of PetroVietnam, stands in court in Hanoi on Monday as he is charged of mismanagement. Photo by Vietnam News Agency

Dinh La Thang said he had pushed his staff so hard they had violated protocols.

Former chairman of PetroVietnam Dinh La Thang offered to take responsibility for his subordinates’ wrongdoings at a historic corruption trial in Hanoi on Tuesday, saying they had been following his orders.

Fallen political star Thang is in the dock for mismanagement related to losses of millions of dollars incurred at power projects run by PetroVietnam Construction Corporation (PVC).

He said the power projects were part of the group’s development strategy that he had rushed into at the time.

He said he had been “too impatient” and had pushed so hard for the work to be completed on time that his subordinates had violated protocols.

“I would like to take the responsibility as their leader,” he said. “I would like to take responsibility for my staff.”

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

During his time in office, he was a popular outspoken politician who won media headlines for his bold and down-to-earth comments.

He was arrested on December 8, after being voted out of the then 19-member Politburo, the Party’s decision-making body, and fired as the top leader of HCMC in May.

He is on trial with 21 other former executives of the oil giant, including Trinh Xuan Thanh, who police said turned himself in last August after fleeing to Europe.

According to the indictment, Thang directly appointed Thanh as PVC’s general director in December 2007, before making various promotion, funding and recruitment decisions to boost Thanh’s power and facilitate the company’s operations.

He is accused of being responsible for Thanh’s actions that led to losses worth more than VND119 billion ($5.24 million) at one thermal power plant and embezzlement of VND4 billion ($176,000) at another.

He is charged with “deliberately violating state regulations on economic management, causing serious consequences.”

Judicial action against Thang has been taken unusually fast, with prosecution coming a week after police completed their investigation and a hearing less than a month later. Lawyers said this is understandable given the case’s gravity and the attention it has attracted from both the government and the public.

Vietnam’s fight against corruption gained momentum last year under 73-year-old Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong.

Scores of officials and executives from PetroVietnam and the banking sector have been arrested.

At another high-profile trial that wrapped up after a month in September, the Hanoi court sentenced Nguyen Xuan Son, another former board chairman of PetroVietnam, to death, and Ha Van Tham, his counterpart at OceanBank, to life in jail for embezzlement and mismanagement that caused losses of nearly VND1.6 trillion ($70.4 million) at the bank, in which PetroVietnam held a 20 percent stake.

Son is also among the former oil executives who are standing trial with Thanh and Thang. Meanwhile, Thang is set to stand another trial later this month for his role in the OceanBank case, for which he is facing up to 20 years in prison. 

The PetroVietnam trial opened on Monday and is expected to last two weeks, taking place at the same time as a separate trial in Ho Chi Minh City, where a $266 million fraud case involving Vietnam’s Construction Bank is being heard.

 
 
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