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Vietnam starts high-profile trial over oil firm losses

Reuters  |  HANOI 

By Mi Nguyen

(Reuters) - began the trial on Monday of 22 executives charged over losses totalling hundreds of millions of dollars at the state firm, PetroVietnam, with the most serious offences potentially carrying the death penalty.

The defendants included the communist state's first politburo member to face trial in decades and a who says was kidnapped by Vietnamese agents from a park.

The trial is part of a widespread crackdown on fraud and mismanagement in the and banking sectors that intensified after the establishment gained greater influence in the ruling party last year.

The trial in was taking place simultaneously with a separate trial in the commercial capital Ho Chi Minh City, where a fraud case involving was being heard.

The 46 defendants include the bank's ex-Pham Cong Danh, who is accused of causing losses of 6.1 trillion dong ($268.62 million), according to the government's website.

Total losses caused by fraud at the amounted to 15.5 trillion dong ($682.55 million), a previous report said.

The case at the People's Court was not open to the public and was tight.

Photographs released by the Agency, the official state provider, showed defendants handcuffed as they were led to the courtroom.

Of the 22 executives on trial, 12 are accused of "violation of state regulations on economic management causing serious consequences". Eight are accused of embezzlement, according to the government's official website. Two are accused of both.

The most senior former on trial is Dinh La Thang, who was arrested last month. He is a former politburo member who was dismissed from his post over the losses at and then stripped of his role as of

Also on trial is Trinh Xuan Thanh, who says was kidnapped last year and taken home against his will to face accusations over losses of more than $150 million at a subsidiary of

Thanh is accused of both corruption and breaking state rules on economic management. A saw the bespectacled Thanh arrive under police escort at the court on Monday.

Thanh appeared on state television in August and said he had decided to return home to turn himself in.

Neither Thang nor Thanh made any comment at the court and was unable to contact the lawyers representing them.

The maximum jail term for deliberate violation of state regulations is 20 years in prison, state television VTV1 reported in a bulletin on Monday.

Government critics have voiced suspicions that the corruption crackdown is politically motivated, at least in part, and aimed against those close to former Nguyen Tan Dung, who lost out in an internal power struggle in 2016.

The trial is due to last until Jan. 21.

In a separate case linked to the corruption crackdown, a fugitive Vietnamese tycoon was arrested in on Thursday after being sent home from Singapore, where he was accused of immigration offences.

Phan Van Anh Vu, 42, told his lawyers he was also a in Vietnam's secret police and was trying to get to and could have details of the operation in which Thanh was spirited home from last year.

($1 = 22,709 dong)

(Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Paul Tait)

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, January 08 2018. 15:53 IST