Prosecutors propose life sentence for runaway PetroVietnam exec as landmark trial heats up

By Bao Ha   January 11, 2018 | 04:45 pm GMT+7

His former boss and once rising political star Dinh La Thang faces 14-15 years in jail.

Vietnamese prosecutors have called for a notorious runaway PetroVietnam executive to be sentenced to life in prison and its former chairman to 14-15 years for their involvement in a massive corruption scandal at the oil giant.

The country’s top prosecution body, the Supreme People’s Procuracy, has accused Dinh La Thang, former board chairman of the state-owned PetroVietnam, of “deliberately acting against State regulations on economic management, causing serious consequences”, and the runaway Trinh Xuan Thanh of the same charge plus embezzling property.

The two are standing trial with 20 other former PetroVietnam execs accused of being responsible for million-dollar losses at power projects run by PetroVietnam Construction Corporation (PVC).

Dinh La Thang, former board chairman of PetroVietnam, stands at a corruption trial in Hanoi on Thursday. Photo by Vietnam News Agency

Dinh La Thang, former board chairman of PetroVietnam, stands at a corruption trial in Hanoi on Thursday. Photo by Vietnam News Agency

According to prosecutors, Thang had abused his power as the group's top leader and overseen financial mismanagement.

The indictment said he 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.

Thang has offered to take responsibility for his subordinates’ wrongdoings, claiming he had been “too impatient” and had pushed so hard for the work to be completed on time that his subordinates had violated protocols. However, he has not admitted to actually violating the law, which merits strict punishments, the prosecutors said.

Meanwhile Thanh has admitted to having misused the money provided to PVC by PVN, but denied causing losses. According to a representative of PVC at the trial, the company has in fact already retrieved more money than the amount that Thanh misused, resulting in a profit instead of a loss. Thanh has also denied having embezzled VND4 billion despite statements from his subordinates and witnesses claiming otherwise.

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 HCMC in May.

His 52-year-old co-defendant Thanh was detained last August. Police said he had fled to Europe but returned to turn himself in.

Trinh Xuan Thanh, former board chairman of PetroVietnam Construction Corporation, at a corruption trial in Hanoi. Photo by Vietnam News Agency

Trinh Xuan Thanh, former board chairman of PetroVietnam Construction Corporation, at a corruption trial in Hanoi. Photo by Vietnam News Agency

The recommendations were made on the fourth day of the historic trial.

Before the trial, prosecutors said Thang could face 20 years in jail, the heaviest punishment for his crime, and Thanh could be sentenced to death.

It’s not immediately clear if Thanh will escape death by having returned VND2 billion ($87,800) of the money he is accused of stealing from the oil giant. His mother handed over the money to authorities the week before the trial, in what lawyers have interpreted as an effort to save Thanh from death.

Vietnam’s revised Penal Code, effective from this month, allows those convicted of embezzlement to avoid the death sentence by returning at least 75 percent of their ill-gotten gains.

The country’s fight against corruption gained momentum last year under 73-year-old Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong.

Scores of officials and executives from PetroVietnam and the banking sector have been arrested.

At another high-profile trial that wrapped up after a month in September, the Hanoi court sentenced Nguyen Xuan Son, another former board chairman of PetroVietnam, to death, and Ha Van Tham, his counterpart at OceanBank, to life in jail for embezzlement and mismanagement that caused losses of nearly VND1.6 trillion ($70.4 million) at the bank, in which PetroVietnam held a 20 percent stake.

Son is also among the former oil executives who are standing trial with Thanh and Thang. Thang is set to stand trial again later this month for his role in the OceanBank case, for which he is facing up to 20 years in prison.

Thanh is also set to stand another trial for embezzlement at PVPLand, a subsidiary of PVC, for which he is facing the death sentence. 

The PetroVietnam trial opened on Monday 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.

 
 
go to top