Defendant Đinh La Thăng, former Politburo member and former chairman of PetroVietnam at the court.— VNA/VNS Photo Doãn Tấn
HÀ NỘI — The much-awaited trial for economic mismanagement and embezzlement at PetroVietnam (PVN), the largest State-owned company, commenced yesterday morning in the capital city.
The first-instance trial is scheduled to last for two weeks (January 8-21), looking into one of the most notorious cases of corruption involving the disgraced former Politburo member and former PVN’s chairman Đinh La Thăng, and Trịnh Xuân Thanh, former chairman of PVN’s subsidiary PetroVietnam Construction JSC (PVC).
The case has been under public scrutiny as the Party’s crackdown on corruption is reaching an unprecedented high, netting several executives and top-level officials hitherto thought to be immune from the law.
“Most defendants are those holding key positions in critical economic establishments who have been entrusted by the State and the people to manage public capital and implement nationally important projects, including the Thái Bình 2 thermal power plant project,” reads the indictment of the Supreme People’s Procuracy.
However, during project implementation, multiple wrongdoings have taken place, including abuse of power to make profit.
Twenty-two defendants have been put on trial, including 17 detainees and five on bail. Twelve, including Đinh La Thăng, have been indicted on charges of “deliberate violations of State management regulations on economic management, causing serious consequences” as per Article 165, Paragraph 3, under the 1999 Penal Code.
Eight defendants have been indicted for misappropriation of assets, while Trịnh Xuân Thanh and Vũ Đức Thuận, former director-general of PVC, are being prosecuted for economic mismanagement and embezzlement.
The jury consists of five members – two judges and three people’s jurors. Judge Nguyễn Ngọc Huân is presiding over the trial. Due to the importance the case, the People’s Court of Hà Nội has arranged for a deputy judge and two deputy people’s jurors to be present at the court.
Forty of 42 lawyers defending the accused appeared in the court yesterday. While five lawyers are representing Trịnh Xuân Thanh (down from the initial nine), three are defending Đinh La Thăng.
Of the 31 witnesses ordered to appear in court, 24 were present and seven were absent, with three of them citing official reasons.
Unlike previous trials, this trial is being conducted according to a new circular issued by the Supreme People’s Court that takes effect this year. It stresses the spirit of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and respect for human rights.
The usual horseshoe-shaped stand for the defendants, which in common perception symbolises guilt, has been replaced with defendants’ box placed in front of the panel of judges. Other participants in the proceedings can stand by their seats to speak to the judges or come up to a stand near the defendants’ box. The panel of judges sits at the highest elevated position, while representatives of the Procuracy and defending lawyers sit opposite each other.
Trịnh Xuân Thanh, former chairman of PetroVietnam Construction JSC , appeared on January 8 trial. — VNA/VNS Photo Doãn Tuấn
In the afternoon, interrogation of defendants began in the trial of Trịnh Xuân Thanh and accomplices. The judges focused their questions on clarifying the intent behind violations of State regulations on economic management causing serious consequences with regard to the Thái Bình 2 Thermal Power Plant Project.
The judges decided to place two defendants, Đinh La Thăng and Trịnh Xuân Thanh, into an isolated room before the interrogation began.
According to the indictment, Đinh La Thăng played the main role, giving directions and appointing PVC to implement the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract, as also directing the PetroVietnam Power Corporation (PVPower) to sign the No.33 EPC contract with PVC against regulations. Afterwards, Thăng directed his subordinates at PVN and the management board of the project to provide an advance of $6.607 million and over VNĐ1.3 trillion against regulations, allowing Trịnh Xuân Thanh and his accomplices to use over VNĐ1.1 trillion for wrong purposes, causing losses of nearly VNĐ120 billion to the State.
During the interrogation, PVC’s former deputy director-general Nguyễn Văn Tiến admitted that the advance payment was misused and only VNĐ200 billion actually went to the project’s implementation.
The indictment said that during implementation of the Thái Bình 2 thermal power project, Trịnh Xuân Thanh, as PVC Chairman, directed Vũ Đức Thuận to sign the EPC No. 33 so that PVC could get advance payment even though PVC “did not have the necessary qualifications or experience at the time,” Thuận admitted to the court.
Thanh decided to use more than VNĐ1.1 trillion ($48.4 million) of the advance for unofficial purposes, causing losses of VNĐ120 billion ($5.3 million) to the State coffers.
Besides, Thanh was the person who mooted the idea and together with Thuận, directed Nguyễn Anh Minh, then PVC Deputy General Director, and Lương Văn Hoà, then Director of PVC’s Vũng Áng – Quảng Trạch Project Management Board, to compile false documents to withdraw more than VNĐ13 billion ($578,000) from the project and divide among them for personal use.
Of this money, Thanh got VNĐ4 billion ($176,000). He, together with Thuận, Minh and Bùi Mạnh Hiển, then Chief of Staff of PVC, also spent VNĐ1.5 trillion ($66,000) together.
Interrogation of the defendants will continue today. — VNS