Further humiliation for former party heavyweight

The treatment of Dinh La Thanh (second from right) serves as a warning to other senior figures in the Communist party.

The spectacular fall from grace of the former politburo member, Dinh La Thang, appeared to be complete in January when he was sentenced to 13 years in jail for economic crimes.

But now the former technocrat, once seen as a breath of fresh air in the Communist party’s hidebound hierarchy, finds himself back in the dock and facing the prospect of an even longer sentence.

His fate serves as a warning to all those in the leadership and beyond who fall foul of the reinvigorated general-secretary of the party, Nguyen Phu Trong, who has stamped his authority all over the current anti-corruption campaign.

Mr Thang is once again charged with mismanagement during his time as head of the state oil company, PetroVietnam.

He is accused of investing some $35 million in Ocean Bank without receiving the required approval from the company’s board of directors.

The bank was later taken over by the state bank and has, with PetroVietnam, been at the centre of corruption allegations against large numbers of former executives and officials.

Political motive

The prosecution of a such a senior figure was seen as a major point of departure for Mr Trong, as he seeks to convince the party and the wider public of his seriousness in tackling corruption.

Top officials accused of wrongdoing in the past could expect much gentler treatment, involving perhaps demotion or early retirement.

In the absence of any attempt at transparency from the leadership, many Vietnamese will continue to suspect a political motive for Mr Thang’s downfall.

Whatever the intentions, the sight of an old party heavyweight back in court for a second dose of communist justice does serve one clear purpose – letting potential opponents know what’s at stake if they step out of line.