Vietnam’s former oil execs appeal jail terms in landmark corruption case

By Xuan Hoa   February 2, 2018 | 10:19 pm PT
Vietnam’s former oil execs appeal jail terms in landmark corruption case
Dinh La Thang, former board chairman of PetroVietnam, speaks at a trial in Hanoi in January. Photo by Vietnam News Agency
Dinh La Thang said his 13-year sentence was ‘too harsh’ while the runaway Trinh Xuan Thanh said he did not commit the convicted crimes.

Former board chairman of the oil giant PetroVietnam and its notorious runaway bigwig have both filed appeals against punishments they received in a historic trial that riveted the nation last month.

Dinh La Thang, a former political star and former chief of the state-owned group, and Trinh Xuan Thanh, former head of its construction arm PVC, have asked the Hanoi’s People’s Court to open appeal trials to review their charges and punishment.

At a two-week trial last month, Thang was sentenced to 13 years in jail for economic management violations and Thanh to life imprisonment for similar charges plus embezzlement.

Thang said his punishment was “too harsh.”

The verdict was not fair or objective in assessing his role in the case, he said in his appeal letter.

Thanh, who reportedly turned himself in last year after fleeing to Germany, also said that he did not commit the crimes as convicted.

The duo were in the dock with 20 other former executives of PetroVietnam for causing million-dollar losses at power plants under PetroVietnam Construction JSC (PVC).

By Friday, 12 of them have filed appeals, asking for commuted sentences.

Thang, 57, 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.

The indictment said he directly appointed Thanh as general director of PVC in December 2007, before making various promotion, funding and recruitment decisions to boost Thanh’s power and facilitate the company’s operations.

He was found 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’s 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, a move that international analysts have called “unprecedented.”

The hearing was historic in scale and set a new milestone in Vietnam’s fight against corruption.

Nguyen Phu Trong, the 73-year-old Communist Party leader who has been leading the sweeping crackdown,  said it is at “all-time high.”

After the PetroVietnam trial, Thang is set to stand another one later this year for poor investment decision at OceanBank, for which he is facing up to 20 years in prison. 

According to investigators, despite OceanBank’s “small and inefficient” operations back in 2008, Thang plowed ahead to buy a 20 percent stake worth VND800 billion ($35 million) at the bank, which was completely written off when the central bank took it over in 2015.

Thanh, 51, is already standing his second trial for embezzlement at PVP Land, a real estate subsidiary of PVC, and is facing the death sentence.

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