Vietnamese runaway bigwig ditches appeal as corruption fight continues

By Bao Ha   May 7, 2018 | 01:27 am PT
Vietnamese runaway bigwig ditches appeal as corruption fight continues
PVC's former chairman Trinh Xuan Thanh is escorted by police officers from a court to prison after verdict session in Hanoi, Vietnam, January 22, 2018. Photo by Vietnam News Agency/Doan Tan
Trinh Xuan Thanh did not show up for his appeal trial, reportedly due to health reasons.

Notorious runaway oil executive Trinh Xuan Thanh has withdrawn his appeal against sentences for embezzlement and economic mismanagement that will likely see him live out the rest of his days behind bars.

The former chairman of PetroVietnam Construction JSC (PVC) had previously filed an appeal to the Hanoi’s People’s Court claiming he was not guilty of the crimes laid against him.

But just five days before the appeal trial, Thanh has shocked the public by withdrawing his appeal, the court heard.

He was absent on Monday from the trial, which is also going to spend 10 days hearing appeals from Dinh La Thang, former chief of PetroVietnam before rising as a politcal star, and 13 others convicted for million-dollar losses at the state oil giant at a trial in January.

Thanh was sentenced to life imprisonment for million-dollar losses at power plants under the control of his construction firm at the historic hearing.

Just a month later, he received a second life sentence for embezzlement at a subsidiary of the country's top energy firm, PetroVietnam.

Thanh, 52, 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 sparked 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 PetroVietnam trials have escalated to a historic scale, creating a new chapter in Vietnam’s fight against corruption.

Nguyen Phu Trong, Vietnam's 74-year-old Party leader who stands behind the sweeping campaign, has described it as being at an “all-time high,” and has urged authorities to keep up the momentum.

He is pushing ahead other major corruption cases involving state-owned telecom giant MobiFone, a defense ministry's company and top former police officials.

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