Vietnam arrests former executive in widened graft crackdown

HANOI, Vietnam — Police in Vietnam arrested the former chairman of a scandal-hit major state-owned conglomerate for alleged abuse of power as communist authorities step up their crackdown on graft.

The Ministry of Public Security said Nguyen Ngoc Su, the former chairman of Vietnam Shipbuilding Industrial Group, or Vinashin, is suspected of using Vinashin's money to deposit savings into the Ocean joint stock bank that allowed some company executives to appropriate $4.7 million in excessive interest.

Police are widening their investigation into the case, the ministry said in a statement Friday, a day after Su was taken into custody.

Abuse of power carries up to 15 years in prison.

Su was the former vice general director of state energy giant PetroVietnam before being appointed in 2010 to head Vinashin, which was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy over accumulated debts of $4.5 billion, or 4.5 percent of the country's gross domestic product at that time.

Vinashin's former chairman Pham Thanh Binh was sentenced to 20 years in prison for violating government regulations in 2012, while eight other senior executives were given from three to 19 years in the same trial. The case had damaged the country's credit rating.

Scores of officials and bankers have been put on trial recently for economic crimes as authorities stepped up their crackdown on corruption under the watch of Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, who was re-elected to another five-year term in 2016.

Vietnam's highest-profile graft trial wrapped up on Monday when Dinh La Thang, a former Politburo member and former chairman of PetroVietnam, was sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Trinh Xuan Thanh, a former chairman of PetroVietnam's construction arm PVC, who Germany says was kidnapped by Vietnamese agents in Berlin where he sought asylum, was given life imprisonment for embezzlement in the same trial that also includes 20 other defendants, most of them former oil executives.

Ocean Bank was taken over by the State Bank in 2015 at no cost after reported accumulated losses of $445 million.

The bank's general director was sentenced to death for embezzlement while its chairman was sentenced to life imprisonment on the same charges at a trial last year that also included 49 others, most of them Ocean Bank executives.

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