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Fugitive high-profile official turns himself in

Released at: 11:09, 01/08/2017

Fugitive high-profile official turns himself in

Trinh Xuan Thanh (Source: VNA)

Trinh Xuan Thanh now in custody after ten months on the run, according to Ministry of Public Security.

by Quang Huy

A high-profile Vietnamese official who has been on the run for almost a year following accusations he caused massive losses at a State-owned giant has turned himself in to police, the Ministry of Public Security said in a statement on July 31.

Trinh Xuan Thanh, former Chairman and CEO of the PetroVietnam Construction JSC (PVC), a unit of Vietnam Oil and Gas Group (PetroVietnam), has been hiding overseas since last year. The ministry issued an international arrest warrant for him in September 2016.

Thanh, 51, is accused of mismanagement and causing losses of around VND3.2 trillion ($147 million) at PVC. He served as CEO of the company from late 2007, and became Chairman two years later.

After his stint at PVC, he continued to climb the ladder with an apparently successful political track record, holding various government positions including Deputy Chief of Staff at the Ministry of Industry and Trade before taking his last post, as Deputy Chairman of the Mekong Delta province of Hau Giang.

He first caught media attention in June 2016 for driving a $230,000 Lexus with a government license plate in a country where the average annual income at the time 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 and how he had been promoted.

Thanh sought sick leave to travel overseas for treatment in August last year and then vanished.

Vietnam officially took a tough stance on the case in September, when it issued an international arrest warrant and expelled him from the Communist Party, a move that would pave the way for him to face criminal charges.

Party Chief Trong reiterated in April that Vietnam would try to arrest Thanh “by any means”. “It will be impossible for him to hide,” he said.

Vietnam is still looking for Vu Dinh Duy, former CEO of the PetroVietnam Petrochemical and Textile Fiber Company (PVTex), a joint venture between PetroVietnam and textile giant Vinatex that incurred losses of more than VND1.4 trillion ($61.6 million) from construction and investment violations.

After leaving PVTex in 2014, Duy also rose to various positions in government agencies before fleeing the country last October, in a case that bears a striking resemblance to Thanh’s.

Police said there were around 1,100 wanted persons in hiding overseas as at September last year, and international arrest warrants have been issued for 300 of them.

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