Verdict declared in high-profile corruption case, 22 punished

Update: January, 22/2018 - 15:00
The police escorted the convicted out of the Hà Nội People’s Court after the trial looking into wrongdoings at the State-owned oil group PetroVietnam ended on January 28. — VNA/VNS Photo
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI — The Hà Nội People’s Court today delivered its verdict on the malfeasances, which took place at the State-owned oil group, wrapping up two weeks of the high-profile trial.

Some 22 defendants were punished for their involvement in the wrongful selection of the then financially-struggling PetroVietnam Construction JSC (PVC) as the one to undertake the US$1.7 billion Thái Bình thermal power plant project, under the behest of PVC’s mother company, National Oil and Gas Group PetroVietnam (PVN), against regulations and in spite of PVC’s demonstrated lack of capacity. The advance payment ($6 million and VNĐ 1.3 trillion) paid by PVN to PVC was also found to have been misused, resulting in a loss of VNĐ120 billion ($5.3 million) to the State coffers.

The Hà Nội court deemed this a particularly serious case of economic violations and corruption, where the defendants, holding high-ranking positions in State-controlled economic establishments entrusted by the government to carry out strategically important projects, abused their power to intentionally commit wrongdoings.

The final sentences handed down to the defendants mostly stayed true or were lessened slightly, compared to the punishments that the Hà Nội prosecutors sought, with the strictest one being life imprisonment and the lightest one being a suspended sentence.

Đinh La Thăng, PVN former chairman and former Politburo member, expelled from the Communist Party in December last year, received 13 years of imprisonment on the charge of “deliberate violations of State management regulations on economic management, causing serious consequences” under the Penal Code. Prosecutors originally wanted 14-15 years for Đinh La Thăng as they identified him as the one who signed the approval designating PVC as the general contractor, despite evidence pointing towards PVC’s weaknesses. The judges said the prison time was cut back after “serious consideration of Thăng’s clean record and extenuating circumstances”; however, he would be barred from holding financial and economic manager positions 4-5 years after serving the sentence.

Some 13 others were also given jail time due to violation of economic regulations, including Phùng Đình Thực, former PVN director-general, and his two deputies Nguyễn Quốc Khánh and Nguyễn Xuân Sơn.

Some 10 defendants were found guilty of embezzlement, including PVC former deputy general-director Nguyễn Anh Minh, who got 16 years.

Of the 10, three defendants, originally working in Vũng Áng – Quảng Trạch project’s management board, and receiving suspended sentences, were released immediately (if they are not involved in another case).

Trịnh Xuân Thanh, former chairman of PetroVietnam Construction JSC, a subsidiary of State-owned oil group PetroVietnam, and accomplices, listen to the court’s verdict on the final day (January 22) of the two-week trial looking into wrongdoings taking place at the corporation. — VNA/VNS Photo Doãn Tuấn
Đinh La Thăng, former chairman of the State-owned oil group PetroVietnam, listens to the court’s verdict on the final day (January 22) of the two-week trial looking into wrongdoings taking place at the corporation. — VNA/VNS Photo Doãn Tuấn

Found guilty of both offences - serious economic violations and embezzlement - two PVC executives Trịnh Xuân Thanh, former chairman, and Vũ Đức Thuận, former director-general, were given life imprisonment and 22 years, respectively. The judicial panel said Thanh’s serious offence merited the death sentence under the Penal Code; however, as Thanh’s family willingly returned VNĐ4 billion to the authorities and due to Thanh’s sincere acceptance of responsibility for wrongdoings during the trial, Thanh’s sentence was reduced.

The State-owned oil group, PetroVietnam, as a civil plaintiff in the trial, requested the judicial panel to force the defendants to submit VNĐ120 billion – equal to the loss they incurred – back to the State budget. Thăng and Thanh were then asked to pay a total of VNĐ60 billion, with each one being responsible for VNĐ30 billion as they have equal responsibilities.

In the trial, some defendants and their lawyers had argued against the appraisal results, calling the process unfair and insufficient, leading to an inaccurate indictment of the defendants involved.

However, the judicial panel said the calculation of loss was actually in favour of the defendants. It said PVC paying back the money, after misusing PVN’s advance payment should have been considered an extenuating act; the wearing down of machines as well as the loan’s interest accumulated due to the project running behind schedule were not factored in the loss on which sentences for the defendants were based. — VNS