High-profile corruption trial of former oil executive begins in Vietnam

High-profile corruption trial of former oil executive begins in Vietnam

Also on trial is Trinh Xuan Thanh, who Germany says was kidnapped past year and taken home against his will to face accusations over losses of more than $150 million at a subsidiary of PetroVietnam.

Vietnam has begun a major corruption trial against defendants who include a former senior Communist official and a former oil executive the Vietnamese government is accused of snatching from Germany. Vietnam denied that, saying Thanh turned himself in to police voluntarily, but the incident strained bilateral ties and Germany expelled two Vietnamese diplomats.

Dinh La Thanh is a former chairman of state oil company PetroVietnam, which owns PVC, and is also a former member of the ruling Communist party's powerful politburo and a former party chief of Ho Chi Minh city. Thang is accused of improperly awarding a state contract and causing millions of dollars of losses through mishandling PetroVietnam funds.

Thang, the first former Poltiburo member to face prosecution in decades, faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

German authorities accuse Vietnamese security forces of kidnapping Thanh in a Berlin park in July and returning him to Vietnam against his will to face his share of embezzlement charges that, in total, purportedly caused government losses of over $150 million (€125 million).

Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong has overseen a harsh crackdown on corruption at PetroVietnam and the national banking sector since his re-election at the beginning of 2016. "This will worry investors", a Singapore-based analyst said according to Financial Times.

But the Vietnamese leadership is at pains to parade its anti-graft credentials, experts say, as well as take out political enemies.

The case comes amid a massive anti-corruption crackdown in Vietnam, one of Asia's most corrupt nations.

"The EUVFTA may be delayed, but I believe it will eventually be ratified by the EU, especially if the trial of Mr. Thanh is seen as transparent and fair".

The PetroVietnam case at the Hanoi People's Court was not open to the public and security was tight.

Another high-profile executive who will stand trial alongside Thang is Trinh Xuan Thanh.

It is estimated that the trial can last about two weeks. It is ranked 113th out of 176 countries in Transparency International's corruption perceptions index.



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