Court in Vietnam starts 2nd embezzlement trial of executive

Trinh Xuan Thanh, a former chairman of state energy giant PetroVietnam's construction arm, appears in court in Hanoi, Vietnam, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018. Thanh, accused of embezzling $622,000 from a property project, was sentenced to life in prison on Monday for embezzlement in thermo power plant. Germany in August accused Vietnamese agents of snatching Thanh from a Berlin park, a charge Vietnam denied. The incident strained relations between the two countries. (An Dang/ Vietnam News Agency via AP)
Trinh Xuan Thanh, center, is led into a courtroom by police in Hanoi, Vietnam, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018. Thanh, former chairman of state energy giant PetroVietnam's construction arm, is accused of embezzling $622,000 from a property project. Thanh was sentenced to life in prison on Monday for embezzlement in thermo power plant. Germany in August accused Vietnamese agents of snatching Thanh from a Berlin park, a charge Vietnam denied. The incident strained relations between the two countries. (An Dang/Vietnam News Agency via AP)
Dinh Manh Thang, standing, and Trinh Xuan Thanh, seated left, appear in court in Hanoi, Vietnam, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018. Thang is accused of embezzling $222,000 from a property project. Thang is the brother of Dinh La Thang, former Politburo member of the ruling Communist Party and former chairman of state energy giant PetroVietnam who was sentenced to 13 years in prison on Monday for mismanagement. (An Dang/ Vietnam News Agency via AP)
Dinh Manh Thang, center, is led into a courtroom by police in Hanoi, Vietnam, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018. The court put on trial a former oil executive Germany accused Vietnamese agents of kidnapping from a Berlin park for alleged embezzlement. Thang is accused of embezzling $222,000 from a property project. Thang is the brother of Dinh La Thang, a former Politburo member of the ruling Communist Party and former chairman of state energy giant PetroVietnam, who was sentenced to 13 years in prison on Monday for mismanagement. (An Dang/Vietnam News Agency via AP)

HANOI, Vietnam — The embezzlement trial began Wednesday for a former executive at Vietnam's state oil giant who Germany said was kidnapped from there by Vietnamese agents last year.

Trinh Xuan Thanh was the former chairman of state energy giant PetroVietnam's construction arm and is accused of embezzling $622,000 from a property project, the official Vietnam News Agency quoted the indictment as saying. The offense carries the death penalty.

He is among eight defendants all accused of embezzlement in the trial expected to last two weeks. Foreign media were not given access to the trial.

Thanh, 51, was sentenced to life in prison on Monday for embezzlement involving a thermo power plant in the country's highest profile case during an ongoing corruption crackdown.

Among 22 defendants convicted in the case that concluded on Monday was former high-ranking government member Dinh La Thang, a former chairman of PetroVietnam. Thang was the first former Politburo member to face prosecution in decades and received a 13-year prison sentence for economic mismanagement.

Germany has said Vietnamese intelligence services abducted Thanh from a Berlin park in July in what it called "an unprecedented and flagrant violation of German and international law." He had sought asylum in Germany.

Vietnam denied the abduction allegation and says Thanh returned voluntarily.

The defendants in the latest case include Dinh Manh Thang, a former chairman of a construction company and the brother of Dinh La Thang.

The ruling Communist Party under the watch of General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong who was re-elected to another five-year term in 2016, has stepped up its anti-corruption campaign with PetroVietnam and the banking sector at its center.

Scores of current or former senior PetroVietnam executives and bankers have been put on trial for economic crimes.

A trial of 46 defendants, most of them bankers and businessmen, is underway in southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City.

Vietnam ranked 113th out of 176 countries in Transparency International's 2016 corruption index.

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