Vietnam arrests senior party official who led PetroVietnam

HANOI, Vietnam — Vietnamese police arrested a senior Communist Party official on Friday for alleged wrongdoing while he was head of energy giant PetroVietnam, official media said.

The state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper reported that police arrested Dinh La Thang, a member of the party's elite Central Committee and deputy head of the party's economic committee, for allegedly violating economic management regulations. Earlier Friday, the National Assembly's Standing Committee voted to suspend Thang from its membership, paving the way for his arrest.

Thang, 57, was fired as party secretary of the southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City in May after being dismissed from the all-powerful Politburo.

The official Vietnam News Agency reported that Thang is connected to two serious cases being investigated by police.

The first case involves Ocean Bank, for which PetroVietnam bought 20 percent of its shares for 800 billion dong ($35 million) in 2008. The State Bank of Vietnam acquired the debt-ridden bank for zero dong two years ago, resulting in the loss of PetroVietnam's inestment.

A court in Hanoi in September sentenced another former head of PetroVietnam, Nguyen Xuan Son, to death for embezzlement in the Ocean Bank case while 50 others, mostly bank executives, were given suspended sentences to life imprisonment.

The second case involves mismanagement and embezzlement at a PetroVietnam subsidiary, construction company PVC. The company's former head, Trinh Xuan Thanh, disappeared from a Berlin park in July. Germany accused Vietnam of kidnapping him and expelled two Vietnamese diplomats in response.

Vietnam's Ministry of Public Security said Thanh turned himself in to police.

State-run online newspaper VnExpress reported that police on Friday also arrested Nguyen Quoc Khanh, another former chairman of PetroVietnam, for alleged mismanagement of several major projects including two thermo power plants, a textile plant and several fuel plants. The assembly's Standing Committee also voted to suspend Khanh's membership, it said.

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

The Communist Party and government have stepped up an anti-corruption drive in recent years, with courts sentencing several senior executives to death.

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This story has been corrected to show that Thang was suspended, not removed, from the National Assembly.

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