Vietnam’s wanted bigwig ran away to Europe: official

By Nguyen Dong   October 5, 2016 | 12:00 am GMT+7
Vietnam’s wanted bigwig ran away to Europe: official
Trinh Xuan Thanh, the former chairman of PetroVietnam Construction JSC, in a file photo. The Ministry of Public Security has issued an international wanted notice for him.

The man is at the center of a probe into nearly $150 million of losses at a state firm.

A senior Vietnamese official 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.

Trinh Xuan Thanh, former chairman of PetroVietnam Construction JSC (PVC), could escape because local authorities did not press charges against him or take measures to watch him closely at the time, said Dinh The Huynh, a senior Communist Party official.

Huynh's statement marked the first time a high-ranking official has spoken more specifically about the whereabouts of Thanh. The Ministry of Public Security only said on September 16 that they had issued an international arrest warrant for Thanh.

Huynh, a member of the decision-making Politburo and the Party's de facto number two, was speaking to his constituents in the central city of Da Nang on Tuesday. (In Vietnam, top leaders, including the Party chief, the president and the prime minister, also serve as elected lawmakers.)

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, under his watch between 2011 and 2013. Four other executives from the company have been arrested.

Thanh sought overseas sick leave in mid-August and has never returned since, the 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 annual average income was around $2,100. The scandal caused uproar over the use of public money, prompting the 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 many offshoot units and partnered with a number of companies, but few of the ventures proved effective. Most of their business projects during the period ended up being delayed or even canceled.

After his stint at PVC, Thanh continued to be kicked upstairs with an apparently successful political track record, holding various government positions before taking his latest post as vice chairman of the Mekong Delta province of Hau Giang.

He was not nominated for re-election for the 2016-2020 tenure in June. Then in July, he was also stripped off his legislator-elect status.

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