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By Mi Nguyen
HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam began the trial on Monday of 22 executives charged over losses totalling hundreds of millions of dollars at the state oil firm, PetroVietnam, with the most serious offences potentially carrying the death penalty.
The trial is part of a widespread crackdown on fraud and mismanagement in the energy and banking sectors that intensified after the security establishment gained greater influence in the ruling party last year.
The PetroVietnam trial in Hanoi was taking place simultaneously with a separate trial in the commercial capital Ho Chi Minh City, where a fraud case involving Vietnam's Construction Bank was being heard.
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 news website. Two are accused of both.
The most senior former executive 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 PetroVietnam and then stripped of his role as party head of Ho Chi Minh City.
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 Reuters 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 news 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 prime minister 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 Hanoi 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 senior officer in Vietnam's secret police and was trying to get to Germany and could have details of the operation in which Thanh was spirited home from Berlin 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.)