Oil execs jailed in Vietnam corruption crackdown

By Viet Dung   March 22, 2019 | 04:01 am PT
Oil execs jailed in Vietnam corruption crackdown
Tu Thanh Nghia (R), former CEO of Vietsovpetro, and Vo Quang Huy, his former chief accountant, stand trial in Hanoi on Friday. Photo by VnExpress/Viet Dung
A Hanoi court has sentenced two executives of a Vietnam-Russia oil joint venture to jail for “abusing their power to appropriate assets.”

Tu Thanh Nghia, 57, former CEO of Vietsovpetro, received 3.5 years, and Vo Quang Huy, 58, a former chief accountant, got seven years.

They had abused their positions and power to misappropriate more than VND6 billion ($259,000) worth of public money, the court concluded Friday.

Nghia gets a shorter term thanks to the significant contributions he has made as the author of many recognized scientific works of great economic value, the court said.

The two were found guilty of pocketing the interest earned from the company's account at OceanBank.

Vietsovpetro (VSP) is a joint venture between state-owned oil giant PetroVietnam and Russia's Zarubezhneft.

It opened an account with OceanBank in 2008 and began making long-term deposits.

By 2014 VSP had made 54 deposits worth over VND13 trillion ($560 million) and 70 others of over $1.26 billion.

They included VND1.9 trillion ($81.8 million) and $55 million deposited during Nghia’s tenure as VSP's general director in 2013-14.

Directed by the bank’s then chairman Ha Van Tham to offer interest rates higher than those set by the central bank, OceanBank's former general director Nguyen Minh Thu personally paid Huy and Nghia the additional interest.

Huy received nearly VND8 billion ($344,000) while Nghia received over VND2.1 billion ($90,400).

The prosecution of Nghia and Huy were part of investigations into a multi-million dollar graft case at OceanBank.

Between 2010 and 2014 the excess interest paid by the lender to customers on Tham’s orders caused losses of over VND1.58 trillion ($67.4 million), inspectors determined.

In September 2017 a Hanoi court sentenced Tham to life imprisonment after dismissing his argument that the high interest rates were a strategy to attract deposits.

Nguyen Xuan Son, the bank's former general director and a former chairman of PetroVietnam, was sentenced to death for appropriating VND246 billion ($10.5 million) from the excess interest payments.

When summoned to court during Tham and Son's trials, Nghia and Huy denied having received interest monies, but confessed to their crime after being arrested.

According to prosecutors, Huy's family has returned over VND4.1 billion ($177,000) while Nghia has returned all the money he received.

The investigation into the corruption at OceanBank is among the major cases the Communist Party and the government are "determined" to pursue and bring to court, according to Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, who is spearheading an anti-corruption campaign.

Trong, 74, has described the sweeping campaign as being at an "all-time high," and has urged authorities to keep up the momentum.

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