Vietnam jails ex-Politburo member over oil giant's losses

Dinh La Thang, center, is being led out of a court room in Hanoi, Vietnam, Thursday, March 29, 2018. Thang was sentenced to 18 years in prison after being convicted of deliberately violating economic management regulations causing losses of millions of dollars to the state when he headed state oil giant PetroVietnam at the end of the week-long trial Thursday. (Vietnam News Agency Photo via AP)

HANOI, Vietnam — A Vietnamese court sentenced a former Communist Party Politburo member to 18 years in prison on Thursday after finding him guilty of mismanagement at a state oil giant that cost millions of dollars.

The former chairman of PetroVietnam, Dinh La Thang, had already been sentenced to 13 years in prison in January on other charges.

The Hanoi court convicted Thang of deliberately violating economic management regulations by investing $35 million in Ocean Commercial Joint Stock Bank without approval from the board of directors. The investment was lost when the bank was acquired by a state bank at no cost.

Six other defendants who were former senior executives of PetroVietnam received from 15 months of probation to 23 years in jail at the end of the weeklong trial Thursday.

The court also ordered Thang to pay 600 billion dong ($26.5 million) in compensation to PetroVietnam and the six others to pay the remaining 200 billion dong ($8.5 million).

"This is a particularly serious case that ... affected the people's trust and caused especially large losses to the state," the state-run online newspaper VnExpress quoted the verdict as saying.

Thang, 57, was once a rising political star but was dismissed from the all-powerful Politburo in May and was subsequently fired as Communist Party secretary of the southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City. He was arrested on Dec. 8.

Phan Trung Hoai, one of Thang's defense lawyers, told The Associated Press that "we were very shocked at the sentences."

Foreign press did not have access to the trial.

During the court proceedings, Thang denied the charges and maintained that what he did was in line with the law.

The state-run online newspaper Dan Tri quoted the verdict as saying Thang held the company's highest position and must bear the main responsibility for the losses.

"After committing the crime, the defendant did not really express remorse, but instead used tricks to conceal the crime and avoid responsibility and the consequences that it caused," the newspaper quoted the verdict as saying.

PetroVietnam and the banking sector have been at the center of an unprecedented crackdown on corruption, with scores of current or former senior executives on trial.

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