Heavy sentences requested for former party insiders

Tronh Xuan Thang could have faced the death penalty on embezzlement charges. Photo courtesy VNA.

The former oil company executive, Trinh Xuan Thanh, is to be spared the death penalty but could face life imprisonment if convicted on corruption charges.

Prosecutors also requested 14-15 years in prison for the disgraced former politburo member, Dinh La Thang, as the trial continues of 22 former officials of the state oil company.

Thanh could have faced the death penalty on charges of embezzlement related to his time as head of PetroVietnam’s construction subsidiary a decade ago.

The German government says he was kidnapped by Vietnamese agents while attempting to seek political asylum in Berlin last July. Vietnam says that he returned home voluntarily.

A death sentence would have further enflamed the diplomatic confrontation with Germany, which is demanding that Thanh be returned to the country for his asylum hearing.

Power struggle

Dinh La Thang, once tipped as a possible future leader, is the most senior official for decades to face such a spectacular fall from grace, fuelling reports of a ferocious power struggle in the party leadership.

He is accused of violating regulations during his time as chairman of PetroVietnam by awarding a power plant contract to the conglomerate’s construction arm, PVC, which was headed at the time by his co-defendant Trinh Xuan Thanh.

He told the court that the decision had been approved by the then prime minister, Nguyen Tan Dung, and by the politburo.

Thang is one of a number former associates and proteges of Dung who have been targeted in the current anti-corruption campaign.

Dung lost out to the incumbent Communist party leader, Nguyen Phu Trong, during a power struggle in 2016 and is seen by some as the ultimate target of the ongoing investigations.

Prosecutors are asking for sentences of 10-13 years for three other former chairmen of PetroVietnam, also in the dock, and suspended sentences for the 17 other defendants.