Vietnam's runaway oil exec appeals second life sentence for embezzlement

By Viet Dung   March 1, 2018 | 06:52 am PT
Trinh Xuan Thanh claimed he did not commit embezzlement as convicted by the Hanoi court last month.

Vietnam’s notorious runaway oil executive has filed an appeal against the life sentence he received for embezzlement at a trial last month.

Trinh Xuan Thanh, former board chairman and general director of PetroVietnam Construction Corporation (PVC), claimed he is innocent of embezzlement and is now seeking to overturn the conviction.

At a two-week trial that concluded on February 5, Thanh was found guilty of causing million-dollar losses at PVC's real estate subsidiary PVP Land.

The indictment said Thanh had colluded with seven people including other former oil executives to falsely devalue PVP Land shares to embezzle VND49 billion (more than $2 million) from a stake sale in 2010.

Thanh alone pocketed VND14 billion ($616,500), but quickly returned this amount due to fear that his violation would be discovered.

Trinh Xuan Thanh, a former PetroVietnam executive, listens during a verdict session at a court in Hanoi on Monday. Photo by Vietnam News Agency

Trinh Xuan Thanh, a former PetroVietnam executive, speaks during a session at a court in Hanoi on February 3. Photo by Vietnam News Agency.

By Thursday, five other defendants, including Dinh Manh Thang, the younger brother of fallen political star Dinh La Thang, have also filed appeals, asking for commuted sentences.

Thanh, 51, served as board chairman at PVC from 2009 to 2013, before holding several government positions including deputy chief of staff at the Ministry of Industry and Trade and deputy chairman of the southern province of Hau Giang.

He caught media attention in June 2016 for driving a $230,000 Lexus carrying a government license plate in a country where the average annual income was around $2,200. 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.

But by that time, Thanh had already fled to Germany. Police said he returned to Hanoi and turned himself in last year.

The investigation found him accountable for losses of around VND3.2 trillion ($147 million) in total at PVC.

In addition to the life sentence for embezzlement at PVP Land, Thanh also received another life sentence in January for causing losses worth VND119 billion at one of PVC's thermal powe plants and embezzling VND4 billion at another. Thanh has also appealed against this sentence, claiming he did not commit the convicted crimes.

The PetroVietnam trials have reached a historic scale, marking a milestone in Vietnam’s fight against corruption.

Trong, the 73-year-old leader of the sweeping campaign, has described it as being at an “all-time high,” and has urged authorities to keep up the momentum.

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