Sun, Sep 18, 2016 - Page 16 News List

Vietnam issues warrant for senior official over graft


Vietnam has issued an arrest warrant for a scandal-hit senior official accused of mismanaging a government-run oil giant, the latest executive targeted in the government’s attempt to clean up the corrupt state sector.

Trinh Xuan Thanh, one of the highest-ranking officials to be sought by police in the communist nation in recent years, has not been seen in public since he left the country last month, according to state-run media.

His arrest warrant came just one day after four of his former colleagues at the PetroVietnam Construction Joint Stock Co subsidiary were arrested for allegedly costing the firm nearly US$150 million during his time as chairman.

The Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security late on Friday said on its Web site that it was seeking Thanh for “intentionally violating state regulations on economic management causing serious consequences.”

Thanh was removed as chairman in 2013, but has since shuffled through a number of senior government postings, including most recently as deputy head of Hau Giang Province.

He left the country in the middle of last month for medical care, and was last week stripped of his Vietnamese Communist Party membership to pave the way for a criminal investigation, according to the state-run VNExpress news Web site.

He has been a marked man ever since he was spotted driving a pricey Lexus with a state license plate, sparking public outrage over inappropriate use of public funds.

Vietnamese Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong in June vowed to launch an investigation into Thanh.

Vietnam has been struggling to clean up its vast and inefficient state-run sector for years, and the new communist administration in power since January has vowed to tackle corruption.

There have been a string of high-profile arrests and prosecutions of wealthy businessmen and executives in recent years, but analysts said they are the result of political infighting rather than a genuine commitment to reform.

Last week, a Vietnamese court convicted the former chairman of Vietnam Construction Bank and 35 other employees for stealing more than US$400 million from the joint stock bank.

Transparency International ranks Vietnam 112 out of 168 nations on its corruption index, worse than its Southeast Asian neighbors Thailand, the Philippines and Myanmar.

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