Twenty-two senior officials on trial in Hanoi on corruption charges

Former minister and politburo member Dinh La Thang is one of the defendants. His arrest sparked tensions between Vietnam and Germany. Former PetroVietnam chairman Trin Xuan Thanh could get the death penalty for embezzlement. Many suspect a showdown within the Party.

Hanoi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Vietnamese authorities on Monday put on trial 22 people accused of corruption and economic mismanagement in relation to millions of dollars of losses to the country’s energy and banking sectors.

The defendants include former top oil executives and a recently dismissed senior Communist Party official.

Dinh La Thang, 57, faces charges of economic mismanagement. He headed PetroVietnam between 2006 and 2011 and served as Transport minister between 2011 and 2016. In January 2016 he became a member of the Communist Party of Vietnam’s politburo, but was removed in May 2017.

He is the latest high-level victim of the government's fight against corruption, which according to political analysts is a sign of an ongoing struggle among the country’s leadership.

Thang has been accused of causing losses of US$ 35 million in oil company investments in Vietnam’s Ocean Bank.

Another former PetroVietnam chairman, Trin Xuan Thanh, 51, is also accused of embezzlement and faces a possible sentence of death if convicted.

In August, Germany accused Vietnam of kidnapping Thanh from a Berlin park and taking him home by force to face charges.

The incident led to strained diplomatic ties between the two countries, though Vietnam said that Thanh had returned home voluntarily.

At the end of December 2017, a wealthy Vietnamese property developer wanted in Vietnam on charges of espionage was arrested in Singapore, causing a stir.

Phan Van Anh Vu, 42, had applied to Germany for asylum before his forced return to Vietnam, where he faces a possible death sentence for “revealing state secrets”.

Fleeing an order for his prosecution, Vu was arrested in Singapore at the end of December as he tried to cross the border with Malaysia on a passport that had been cancelled by Vietnamese authorities.

Vu, a former senior intelligence officer, had enjoyed close ties to former Communist Party Central Committee member Nguyen Xuan Anh, who was removed from his post in October 2017 amid an ongoing crackdown on corruption.