The first-instance trial is scheduled to last for two weeks (January 8-21), looking into one of the most notorious cases of corruption involving the disgraced former Politburo member and former PVN’s chairman Dinh La Thang, and Trinh Xuan Thanh, former chairman of PVN’s subsidiary PetroVietnam Construction JSC (PVC).
The case has been under public scrutiny as the Party’s crackdown on corruption is reaching an unprecedented high, netting several executives and top-level officials hitherto thought to be immune from the law.
“Most defendants are those holding key positions in critical economic establishments who have been entrusted by the State and the people to manage public capital and implement nationally important projects, including the Thai Binh 2 thermal power plant project,” reads the indictment of the Supreme People’s Procuracy.
However, during project implementation, multiple wrongdoings have taken place, including abuse of power to make profit.
Twenty-two defendants have been put on trial, including 17 detainees and five on bail. Twelve, including Dinh La Thang, have been indicted on charges of “deliberate violations of State management regulations on economic management, causing serious consequences” as per Article 165, Paragraph 3, under the 1999 Penal Code.
Eight defendants have been indicted for misappropriation of assets, while Trinh Xuan Thanh and Vu Duc Thuan, former director-general of PVC, are being prosecuted for economic mismanagement and embezzlement.
The jury consists of five members – two judges and three people’s jurors. Judge Nguyen Ngoc Huan is presiding over the trial. Due to the importance the case, the People’s Court of Hanoi has arranged for a deputy judge and two deputy people’s jurors to be present at the court.
Forty of 42 lawyers defending the accused appeared in the court yesterday. While five lawyers are representing Trinh Xuan Thanh (down from the initial nine), three are defending Dinh La Thang.
Of the 31 witnesses ordered to appear in court, 24 were present and seven were absent, with three of them citing official reasons.
Unlike previous trials, this trial is being conducted according to a new circular issued by the Supreme People’s Court that takes effect this year. It stresses the spirit of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and respect for human rights.
The usual horseshoe-shaped stand for the defendants, which in common perception symbolises guilt, has been replaced with defendants’ box placed in front of the panel of judges. Other participants in the proceedings can stand by their seats to speak to the judges or come up to a stand near the defendants’ box. The panel of judges sits at the highest elevated position, while representatives of the Procuracy and defending lawyers sit opposite each other.
In the afternoon, interrogation of defendants began in the trial of Trinh Xuan Thanh and accomplices. The judges focused their questions on clarifying the intent behind violations of State regulations on economic management causing serious consequences with regard to the Thai Binh 2 Thermal Power Plant Project.
The judges decided to place two defendants, Dinh La Thang and Trinh Xuan Thanh, into an isolated room before the interrogation began.
According to the indictment, Dinh La Thang played the main role, giving directions and appointing PVC to implement the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract, as also directing the PetroVietnam Power Corporation (PVPower) to sign the No.33 EPC contract with PVC against regulations. Afterwards, Thang directed his subordinates at PVN and the management board of the project to provide an advance of $6.607 million and over VND1.3 trillion against regulations, allowing Trinh Xuan Thanh and his accomplices to use over VND1.1 trillion for wrong purposes, causing losses of nearly VND120 billion to the State.
During the interrogation, PVC’s former deputy director-general Nguyen Van Tien admitted that the advance payment was misused and only VND200 billion actually went to the project’s implementation.
The indictment said that during implementation of the Thai Binh 2 thermal power project, Trinh Xuan Thanh, as PVC Chairman, directed Vu Duc Thuan to sign the EPC No. 33 so that PVC could get advance payment even though PVC “did not have the necessary qualifications or experience at the time,” Thuan admitted to the court.
Thanh decided to use more than VND1.1 trillion ($48.4 million) of the advance for unofficial purposes, causing losses of VND120 billion ($5.3 million) to the State coffers.
Besides, Thanh was the person who mooted the idea and together with Thuan, directed Nguyen Anh Minh, then PVC Deputy General Director, and Luong Van Hoa, then Director of PVC’s Vung Ang – Quang Trach Project Management Board, to compile false documents to withdraw more than VND13 billion ($578,000) from the project and divide among them for personal use.
Of this money, Thanh got VND4 billion ($176,000). He, together with Thuan, Minh and Bui Manh Hien, then Chief of Staff of PVC, also spent VND1.5 trillion ($66,000) together.
Interrogation of the defendants will continue today.