Hanoi, Viet Nam, Feb 5 – A Vietnamese former oil executive allegedly kidnapped from Germany was jailed for life Monday for embezzlement, state media reported, his second life sentence tied to a corruption crackdown in the communist country.
The one-party state has convicted scores of business and political elites as part of an anti-graft drive observers say is driven by political infighting as much as a commitment to fight crime.
Trinh Xuan Thanh is one of the biggest names to go down as part of the purge, which mirrors a similar crackdown in neighbouring China.
Thanh, the former head of PetroVietnam Construction (PVC), was found guilty of pocketing $620,000 of state funds from a real estate project.
Thanh was convicted alongside seven others who all got lighter sentences following a two-week trial in Hanoi, according to state-controlled VNExpress news site.
“The jury board found all eight defendants guilty of embezzlement. Because he was ultimately responsible, Trinh Xuan Thanh was given a life term,” VNExpress quoted the prosecutor as saying.
Embezzlement carries a maximum sentence of death in Vietnam, though Thanh was spared because he cooperated with the court, according to state media.
The other defendants were given between six and sixteen years in jail.
“The defendants’ actions were a symbol of ethical degradation and corruption by civil servants for their own benefit,” the prosecutor added.
Thanh’s case has grabbed international headlines since Germany said he was kidnapped from a Berlin park by Vietnamese security agents last year, slamming the move as a “scandalous violation” of its sovereignty.
Hanoi denies the accusation, and said Thanh — who had been seeking asylum in Germany — returned to Vietnam to voluntarily hand himself in.
Thanh’s first life sentence was handed down last month in a separate trial, where he was accused alongside ex-politburo member Dinh La Thang and 20 others of causing $5.2 million in losses for the state during an investment by state-run PetroVietnam into a thermal power plant.
Thang — the former head of PetroVietnam, the country’s largest oil firm — is the most senior official convicted of graft in recent years.
He was handed 13 years in prison in the case that captivated a nation unused to seeing misdeeds of high-profile figures play out in public.
Both men have appealed their sentences in that case.
Though Vietnam has long vowed to tackle graft, a conservative leadership in place since 2016 has convicted scores of bankers, officials and former executives at an unprecedented pace.
This week, 46 bankers face sentencing for allegedly causing millions of dollars in losses.
Vietnam ranks 113th out of 176 on its corruption perception index, worse than its Southeast Asian neighbours Thailand and the Philippines, Transparency International said.