Vietnam's Party chief orders probe into CEO-turned-politician over tangled business ties

By Xuan Hoa, Ky Duyen   February 17, 2017 | 12:00 am GMT+7
Vietnam's Party chief orders probe into CEO-turned-politician over tangled business ties
Vice Minister of Industry and Trade Ho Thi Kim Thoa (L) and Trinh Xuan Thanh (R) who is currently wanted internationally. Photo by the Ministry of Industry and Trade

The vice minister of industry and trade reportedly holds shares worth $4.3 million in a company she ran when it was state-owned.

Communist Party's General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong has ordered an investigation into media reports regarding the huge personal assets allegedly possessed by a vice minister and her family.

In a statement, Trong ordered the Central Inspection Commission and other agencies to clarify media reports that say Vice Minister of Industry and Trade Ho Thi Kim Thoa and her family currently hold shares worth hundreds of billions of dong in the Dien Quang Lamp Joint Stock Company.

Thoa worked at the company for 18 years during which time she served as chairwoman and CEO before being promoted to the ministry in 2009.

Dien Quang was a state-owned firm before it was privatized in 2005.

Last year, Thoa and her family held close to a 35 percent stake in the company, worth around VND700 billion ($30 million). Her 1.7 million shares in Dien Quang are worth VND100 billion ($4.3 million). Vietnam's average annual income was around $2,200 last year.

On February 10, the Ministry of Industry and Trade released a statement defending the vice minister, saying she had acquired the shares prior to her appointment in 2009.

The ministry also said she had always included the shares in her annual personal asset declarations since moving to the ministry.

Authorities have repeatedly acknowledged that Vietnam’s financial disclosure laws, billed as one of the most powerful tools for tackling corruption, have remained all but toothless.

In the hot seat

The probe Thoa is facing is the latest in a spate of troubles that have besieged the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

It came shortly after she was punished just last month for her involvement in the appointment of Trinh Xuan Thanh, who is now wanted internationally. Former minister of industry and trade Vu Huy Hoang has also been rebuked following an investigation into Thanh’s promotion process.

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. Scores of officials have been either arrested or disciplined as investigations are underway.

Thanh went overseas on sick leave in mid-August and has never returned since.

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