Senior officials punished as Vietnam probes political rise of runaway bigwig

By VnExpress   December 2, 2016 | 02:00 am GMT+7
Senior officials punished as Vietnam probes political rise of runaway bigwig
From left: Tran Luu Hai, former deputy chairman of the Central Organizing Committee; Tran Cong Chanh, chief of Hau Giang's Communist Party Unit; and Huynh Minh Chac, Chanh's predecessor. They have been punished as Vietnam reviews of the shady political rise of a runaway bigwig fingered in a massive corruption scandal.

Inspectors have been probing those who promoted a wanted official.

Several high-ranking Vietnamese officials have been punished for their previous involvement with Trinh Xuan Thanh, a former official who is currently in hiding overseas.

Thanh, currently wanted on an international warrant, is believed to have flown to Europe amid an investigation into losses of nearly $150 million at a state-owned company that he once ran.

In a recent statement, the Central Inspection Committee, the Communist Party’s top watchdog, singled out Tran Cong Chanh, the chief of Hau Giang's Communist Party Unit, for alleged violations that led to Thanh's appointment as vice chairman of the southern province.

Chanh was deputy party chief and mayor of Hau Giang when Thanh moved from the Ministry of Industry and Trade in May last year. Thanh was not nominated for re-election for the 2016-2020 tenure in June.

The committee said that two other retired senior officials should receive official warnings for personnel violations between 2011 and 2016.

They are Huynh Minh Chac, Party chief of Hau Giang from 2010-2015; and Tran Luu Hai, former deputy chairman of the Central Organizing Committee. Chac and Hai had violated party rules which enabled Thanh to serve as vice mayor of Hau Giang last year, the statement said.

Three vice ministers of home affairs were also named by the Central Inspection Committee on Thursday. Tran Thi Ha, Tran Anh Tuan and Nguyen Duy Thang were all implicated in the case of Thanh’s promotion.

Thanh is accused of mismanagement and causing losses of around VND3.2 trillion ($147 million) at PVC, a unit of the state-owned oil giant PetroVietnam he controlled between 2011 and 2013. Four other executives from the company have been arrested.

Thanh sought overseas sick leave in mid-August and has not returned since, police said. He was expelled from the Communist Party on September 8, a move that would pave the way for him to face criminal charges.

The now-infamous official first caught media attention in June for driving a $230,000 Lexus with a government license plate in a country where the average annual income is around $2,100. The scandal caused uproar over the use of public money, prompting Communist Party Chief Nguyen Phu Trong to order a probe into his political career and how he had been promoted.

Government inspectors found that Thanh and his team, starting in 2009, had launched a number of ventures with different companies, but few had proven successful. Most of their business projects ended up being delayed or closed down.

After his stint at PVC, Thanh continued to climb the ladder with an apparently successful political track record, holding various government positions before taking his last post as vice mayor of the Mekong Delta province of Hau Giang.

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