Jailed PetroVietnam chief faces another criminal probe

By Ba Do   January 20, 2019 | 08:48 pm PT
Jailed PetroVietnam chief faces another criminal probe
Dinh La Thang stands trial on March 20, 2018 for mismanagement as board director of PetroVietnam. Photo by Vietnam News Agency
Dinh La Thang will be investigated for losses incurred by a biofuel plant in the northern province of Phu Tho.

Thang, 59, former board chairman of state-owned oil giant PetroVietnam (PVN), has been placed under criminal investigation for violations of the law that have had serious consequences.

His suspected accomplice and former PVN deputy general director Tran Thi Binh, 61, will also be probed, and has been placed under house arrest.

The probes into Thang and Binh are part of an expanded investigation into construction investment violations at the national oil giant's Phu Tho ethanol plant.

Since last June, the investigation has already netted several former oil executives including Vu Thanh Ha, 56, former general director of PetroVietnam Biofuel, a PVN subsidiary.

According to investigators, the Phu Tho plant is one of PVN's three projects to produce ethanol as material for making biofuel. With an investment of VND2.4 trillion ($103 million), the project broke ground in June 2009 on a 50 hectare (124 acres) plot.

However, the project still remains incomplete as its contractor, PetroVietnam Construction (PVC), has stopped working on the plant since November 2011.

Government inspectors have said that the project has cost PVN over VND1.5 trillion ($64.5 million), yet it is still nowhere near completion, as per their inspection in September 2016.

Taking interest rates into consideration, the inspectors have estimated losses incurred since the project's construction stopped at over VND600 billion ($25.81 million) as of April 30, 2018.

Thang is already serving a combined prison term of 30 years, the maximum allowed under Vietnam's Penal Code, after he was found guilty in two separate trials of economic management violations causing losses of millions of dollars.

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

He was arrested in December 2017 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 analysts have called "unprecedented."

Thang has also been expelled from the Communist Party, bringing his 30-year political career to an end.

His fall from grace is the biggest casualty thus far of Vietnam’s sweeping corruption crackdown spearheaded by Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong.

Trong, 75, who took office in 2011, has described the campaign as being at an "all time high."

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