Notorious Vietnamese oil exec to stand trial in January: court

By Vo Hai   December 3, 2017 | 11:48 pm PT
Notorious Vietnamese oil exec to stand trial in January: court
Trinh Xuan Thanh, a former executive at PetroVietnam, in a file photo by VnExpress.
The Hanoi's People's Court will hold separate hearings regarding Trinh Xuan Thanh’s alleged violations at  PetroVietnam.

The Hanoi People's Court has announced it will hold two trials for the fugitive oil executive Trinh Xuan Thanh in January, five months after his surrender rocked the country’s political dynamic.

Nguyen Huu Chinh, the chief justice of the court, said at a meeting with the city’s legislators on Monday that the court will hold separate hearings regarding Thanh’s alleged violations at two units of the state energy giant PetroVietnam: PetroVietnam Construction JSC (PVC) and PetroVietnam Power Land JSC.

Thanh is accused of embezzlement and economic mismanagement that caused losses of around VND3.2 trillion ($147 million) at PVC when he was chairman and general director between 2007 and 2013. Details of the damage the property company incurred while he was in charge have not been revealed.

The 51-year-old caught media attention in June 2016 for driving a $230,000 Lexus with a government license plate in a country where the average annual income is around $2,200. The scandal caused uproar over the use of public money, prompting a probe into his political career and how he had been promoted.

But by that time, he had already fled to Europe. The Ministry of Public Security issued an international arrest warrant for him in September 2016. He appeared on national television in early August this year saying he had turned himself in; but police have never elaborated on how he returned to Vietnam.

The investigation into Thanh’s wrongdoings has ensnared scores of government officials and corporate executives. Chief among them was Dinh La Thang, who was removed from the Politburo, the Communist Party’s decision-making body, in May. He was later fired from his position as the top leader of Vietnam’s economic center, Ho Chi Minh City.

PetroVietnam and the banking sector have been at the center of Vietnam's widening anti-graft move.

In late September, a Hanoi court sentenced Nguyen Xuan Son, former chairman of PetroVietnam, to death, and Ha Van Tham, his counterpart at OceanBank, to life imprisonment for their roles in a multi-million-dollar graft case that riveted the nation.

Tham was 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). The court found Son guilty of appropriating VND246 billion ($13.6 million) of the money.

The Hanoi court said Monday it will hold another trial in February regarding a 20 percent stake worth VND800 billion ($35 million) PetroVietnam bought in OceanBank that was subsequently written off when the central bank took it over in 2015.

Three PetroVietnam execs have already been arrested as part of the probe, and several inspectors at the central bank might also be held responsible for poor supervision.

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