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Fugitive oil executive faces death penalty

Released at: 18:17, 26/12/2017

Fugitive oil executive faces death penalty

Mr. Trinh Xuan Thanh (Photo from 24h.com.vn)

Supreme People's Procuracy lays charges against Trinh Xuan Thanh on December 26.

by Quang Huy

Fugitive oil executive Trinh Xuan Thanh, who fled to Europe, is facing the death penalty for million-dollar losses at State-owned PetroVietnam, while its former Chairman Dinh La Thang may receive 20 years in prison for his poor management, prosecutors said.

The Supreme People’s Procuracy on December 26 verified charges against 22 people, most of whom are former executives at the oil giant, for losses racked up at the PetroVietnam Construction Corporation (PVC).

Fifty-one-year-old Mr. Thanh, former Chairman and CEO of PVC, faces the death penalty for property embezzlement and 20 years in jail for violating State regulations on economic management.

He is set to stand trial in Hanoi in January for causing losses of around VND3.2 trillion ($147 million) when he was leading the construction company between 2007 and 2013.

He caught media attention in June 2016 when he was a provincial Deputy Chairman, for driving a $230,000 Lexus with a government license plate in a country where the average annual income is around $2,200. The scandal caused an uproar over the use of public money, prompting a probe into his political career and how he had been promoted.

But by that time, he had already fled to Europe. The Ministry of Public Security issued an international arrest warrant for him in September 2016. He appeared on national television in early August this year saying he had turned himself in. 

Mr. Dinh La Thang, who was Chairman of PetroVietnam between 2006 and 2011 before his political career took off as Minister of Transport, was found responsible for Mr. Thanh's actions that led to losses worth more than VND119 billion ($5.24 million) at one thermal power plant and embezzlement of VND4 billion ($176,000) at another.

He directly appointed Mr. Thanh as PVC’s CEO in December 2007, before making various promotion, funding, and recruitment decisions to boost Mr. Thanh’s power and facilitate the company’s operations, investigators said.

The former transport minister is charged with “deliberately violating State regulations on economic management, causing serious consequences.” Prosecutors said he faces 20 years in prison, the maximum penalty for the crime, but proposed the court commute the punishment given his cooperation and his past contributions as a State official, but did not suggest a specific term.

Mr. Thang was arrested on December 8, after he was voted out of the then 19-member Politburo, the Party’s decision-making body, and fired as the senior leader of Ho Chi Minh City in May.

The charges against Mr. Thang were approved unusually fast, a week after police completed their investigation, but lawyers said this is understandable given the case's gravity and the attention it has garnered from both the government and the public. 

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