Runaway oil exec asks for time with family in Germany as PetroVietnam verdict looms

By Bao Ha   January 17, 2018 | 12:13 am PT
Runaway oil exec asks for time with family in Germany as PetroVietnam verdict looms
Trinh Xuan Thanh, a former executive at PetroVietnam, at an on-going trial in Hanoi. Photo by Vietnam News Agency
His former boss Dinh La Thang also pleaded to be with his sick father before serving his sentence.

The last apologies and pleas for leniency were heard at the PetroVietnam trial on Wednesday, as 22 defendants including a fallen political star offered their final words in court before hearing their verdicts next week.

Dinh La Thang, former board chairman of the oil giant and once a popular politician, asked to be with his sick father in Hanoi before serving inevitable time in jail, while the runaway Trinh Xuan Thanh asked to be allowed to spend some time with his family in Germany before serving his sentence.

Thanh, 51, is being tried on charges of embezzlement and mismanagement while he was board chairman and general director of PetroVietnam Construction Corporation, crimes prosecutors said could send him to jail for life.

He said his wife and two children, the youngest of whom is six years old, are having a tough time in Germany.

“I hope the judges will give me the chance to care for my children,” he said in his closing statement in the court in Hanoi.

Thanh fled to Germany when police opened an investigation into his wealth in 2016, but police said he showed up in Hanoi to turn himself in last year.

“I am very regretful,” he said, sending his apologies to Communist Party Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, who has spearheaded Vietnam’s sweeping corruption crackdown over the past couple of years.

Thang, whose political career went south last year, also expressed remorse and apologized to the Party leader in his last statement, made on the ninth day of the historic trial.

“I never thought I would have to stand trial in court,” he said. “This is painful.”

The 57-year-old said his father had fallen sick and was hospitalized last week, so he asked the court to grant him time to spend the Lunar New Year holiday, which will peak in mid-February, with his family before serving his jail term. Prosecutors said he could be sentenced to 15 years for mismanagement.

Dinh La Thang says his last words at the PetroVietnam trial on Wednesday. Photo by Vietnam News Agency

Dinh La Thang makes his final pleas at the PetroVietnam trial on Wednesday. Photo by Vietnam News Agency

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

He said he still owes a great deal of work to the country’s largest city. “All my dreams and ambitions have gone now.”

His trial came swiftly a month after he was arrested. He was fired from the HCMC post and dismissed from the Politburo, the Communist Party’s decision-making body, in May.

The PetroVietnam hearing opened on January 8 over million-dollar losses at the construction arm of the state-owned giant.

The other defendants in the dock also asked for forgiveness in their closing statements.

The trial is 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.

Vietnam’s energy and banking sectors have been at the center of a sweeping corruption crackdown led by the Communist Party, which has led to scores of people being prosecuted.

Party leader Trong told leaders of the Ministry of Public Security on Monday that Vietnam’s anti-corruption fight is “stronger than ever.

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