Vietnamese fallen politician has million-dollar graft appeal thrown out of court

By Bao Ha   May 14, 2018 | 03:38 am PT
Vietnamese fallen politician has million-dollar graft appeal thrown out of court
Dinh La Thang speaks at a trial in Hanoi to appeal his 13-year imprisonment for mismanagement at PetroVietnam in May 2018. Photo by Vietnam News Agency
Dinh La Thang has no options left for his 13-year jail term.

A court in Hanoi upheld a 13-year sentence against a former head of PetroVietnam on Monday, rejecting his appeal that he had followed protocols in a case that caused massive losses at the state giant.

Dinh La Thang, a fallen political star and board chairman of PetroVietnam, had previously asked the Hanoi court to review the charge and tried to appeal the 13-year jail term he received in a historic trial in January for economic management violations.

After a week-long trial, the Hanoi Superior People's Court eventually rejected his appeal.

The indictment said he took advantage of his position as head of PetroVietnam to commit serious violations that caused million-dollar losses at the state giant.

He violated regulations by assigning PetroVietnam Construction JSC (PVC) as the main contractor for several thermal power projects.

He directly appointed Trinh Xuan 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, it said.

He was found guilty of being responsible for Thanh’s actions that caused losses worth more than VND119 billion ($5.24 million) at the Thai Binh 2 thermal power plant and embezzlement of VND4 billion ($176,000) at another.

Thang said at the appeal trial in Hanoi on May 9 that he did not break protocols, and that he had got the nod from the then prime minister for his business decisions.

Thang, 58, 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.

He was thrust into the national limelight after being arrested last December, making him the most high-profile political casualty of a corruption crackdown that has riveted the nation.

Thang also received an 18-year jail sentence for his economic management violations in a $35 million graft case in March. At the trial, he was accused of independently plowing ahead with a 20 percent stake purchase in Ocean Bank in 2008 although he was aware of its “poor capacity.” The stake, worth VND800 billion ($35 million), was completely written off when the central bank took it over in 2015.

He said that his investment decision had received the go-ahead by the then prime minister, but the court dismissed his argument, saying that he had only reported the stake purchase to the government after the deal had been done in an effort to “legitimize” it.

He has been expelled from the Communist Party, putting his 30-year political career to an end.

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