Infamous former PetroVietnam leader pleads for leniency at landmark corruption trial

By Bao Ha   January 13, 2018 | 10:56 pm PT
Infamous former PetroVietnam leader pleads for leniency at landmark corruption trial
Dinh La Thang, former politburo member and former Chairman of Vietnam's National Oil Company PVN (PetroVietnam) stands trial at the courtroom of Hanoi People's Court on January 8, 2018. Photo by Vietnam News Agency
'I only want to die at home in the arms of relatives, to become a free ghost, not an imprisoned ghost.'

Disgraced former chairman of PetroVietnam Dinh La Thang said he was ready to accept 'any penalty' on Saturday during the trial for his alleged mismanagement at the state-owned oil and gas giant that led to million-dollar losses at its subsidiary PetroVietnam Construction Joint Stock Corp (PVC).

Prosecutors have called for Thang to be sentenced to 14-15 years in jail for his crimes after accusing him of “deliberately acting against State regulations on economic management, causing serious consequences”.

Thang admitted that he had not fulfilled his duties as head of PetroVietnam and had failed to stop financial violations committed by his staff.

He has also offered to take responsibility for his subordinates, saying that they had only been following his instructions.

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

Thang is on trial with 21 other former executives of the oil giant, including Trinh Xuan Thanh, who police say 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.

However, he said the severity of the charges had shocked and concerned him as some decisions had involved the entire PetroVietnam management board, not just him.

The former chairman asked the jury to be lenient due to his family situation and personal health. Thang said his 87-year-old father is seriously ill, while his youngest daughter has a growth defect and requires constant care.

He said his father may die while he is in prison.

In addition to his alleged wrongdoings at PVC, Thang will also stand trial for losses involving PetroVietnam’s investment in OceanBank later this month.

Thang, who claims he has been unable to sleep, said he was scared of dying in jail as a result of the combined sentences and the fact he has been on medication for various illnesses since 2006.

If Thang is convicted in both cases, he could face a maximum prison term of 30 years.

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.

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 Ho Chi Minh City in May.

Thang’s brother, Dinh Manh Thang, former chairman of a PetroVietnam unit, was also arrested on allegations of violating state regulations on economic management.

The PetroVietnam trial opened on January 8 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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