Tue, Feb 06, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Ex-PetroVietnam exec given second sentence for graft

AFP, HANOI

Former PetroVietnam Construction Joint Stock Co chairman Trinh Xuan Thanh yesterday listens during a verdict session at a court in Hanoi.

Photo: Reuters / Vietnam News Agency

A Vietnamese former oil executive allegedly kidnapped from Germany yesterday was jailed for life for embezzlement, state media reported, his second life sentence tied to a corruption crackdown.

The one-party state has convicted scores of business and political elites as part of an anti-graft drive observers say is driven by political infighting as much as a commitment to fight crime.

Trinh Xuan Thanh is one of the biggest names to go down as part of the purge, which mirrors a similar crackdown in neighboring China.

The former PetroVietnam Construction Joint Stock Co (PVC) chairman was found guilty of pocketing US$620,000 of state funds from a real-estate project.

Thanh was convicted alongside seven others who all got lighter sentences following a two-week trial in Hanoi, the state-controlled VNExpress news site reported.

“The jury board found all eight defendants guilty of embezzlement. Because he was ultimately responsible, Trinh Xuan Thanh was given a life term,” VNExpress quoted the prosecutor as saying.

Embezzlement carries a maximum sentence of death in Vietnam, although Thanh was spared because he cooperated with the court, according to state media.

The other defendants were given between six and 16 years in jail.

“The defendants’ actions were a symbol of ethical degradation and corruption by civil servants for their own benefit,” the prosecutor added.

Thanh’s case has grabbed international headlines since Germany said he was kidnapped from a Berlin park by Vietnamese security agents last year, slamming the move as a “scandalous violation” of its sovereignty.

Hanoi denies the accusation, and said Thanh — who had been seeking asylum in Germany — returned to Vietnam to voluntarily hand himself in.

Thanh’s first life sentence was handed down last month in a separate trial, where he was accused alongside ex-politburo member Dinh La Thang and 20 others of causing US$5.2 million in losses for the state during an investment by state-run PetroVietnam into a thermal power plant.

Thang — another former head of PetroVietnam, the nation’s largest oil firm — is the most senior official convicted of graft in recent years. He was handed 13 years in prison in the case that captivated a nation unused to seeing misdeeds of high-profile figures play out in public.

Both men have appealed their sentences in that case.

This week, 46 bankers face sentencing for allegedly causing millions of US dollars in losses.

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