Former PetroVietnam chief to stand 2nd trial for role in banking graft case in March

By Viet Dung   February 23, 2018 | 05:48 pm PT
Former PetroVietnam chief to stand 2nd trial for role in banking graft case in March
Dinh La Thang, former board chairman of PetroVietnam at the trial in January. Photo by Vietnam News Agency.
Dinh La Thang is facing another 10-20 years in prison for his role in the infamous multi-million-dollar graft case at OceanBank.

Vietnam has set the trial dates for seven former energy officials over a VND800 billion ($35 million) loss at state-owned oil giant PetroVietnam (PVN).

The 10-day trial for Dinh La Thang, former board chairman of PVN and a once-rising political star, and six of his subordinates at the oil giant would be held from March 19 at the Hanoi People's Court.

Thang, as well as PVN's 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, PVN's former chief accountant Ninh Van Quynh is meanwhile charged with "abusing positions and/or powers to apporpriate 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 percent stake purchase without appraising it or reporting the venture to the then prime minister. This led to PetroVietnam holding a VND800 billion stake in the lender, but that was completely written off when the central bank took over it in 2015.

Meanwhile the other six suspects are prosecuted for agreeing with Thang's decision. Quynh has also been accused of abuse of power to appropriate property for receiving VND20 billion from Son in order to influence PVN's decisions in favor of OceanBank.

Son was already sentenced to death for his role in the OceanBank graft case in a different trial last September. At the time, the defense lawyer for Son, who was PVN’s chairman from 2014 until his arrest in 2015, said his client had just been enforcing executive orders already sanctioned by Thang when the latter was at the helm of the state energy giant.

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

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 he was fired as the top leader of Ho Chi Minh City 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.

Nguyen Phu Trong, the 73-year-old Communist Party leader, has been leading the sweeping crackdown, which he recently described as at an “all-time high”.

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