Vietnam issues wanted notice for ex-provincial leader in $147mn loss case probe

Trinh Xuan Thanh is former deputy chairman of the administration of An Giang Province and former chairman of PetroVietnam Construction JSC

Trinh Xuan Thanh (L) and Vu Duc Thuan are pictured at a PVC meeting in this file photo.

Vietnam police on Friday issued an international wanted notice for a former leader of a Mekong Delta province, who has disappeared long before a criminal investigation was launched into a massive US$150 million losses incurred by a company he once chaired.

Trinh Xuan Thanh, former deputy chairman of the administration of An Giang Province and former chairman of PetroVietnam Construction JSC (PVC), is the fifth accused in a probe into the massive losses at the company, a subsidiary of state-run oil and gas giant PetroVietnam.

On Friday, the investigative police unit under the Ministry of Public Security said they have arrested four former top officials of PVC and put them in custody on charges of “intentionally violating state regulations on economic management that caused severe consequences.”

Police issued the same arrest warrant for Thanh later the same day, but after realizing he had fled, officers decided to release an international wanted notice for him.

The arrested conspirators include Vu Duc Thuan, former general director of PetroVietnam Construction JSC (PVC), two of his deputies Nguyen Manh Tien and Truong Quoc Dung, and the company’s former chief accountant Pham Tien Dat.

Under these people’s leadership, PVC had gone from a successful contractor to a loss-making enterprise, incurring a total loss of VND3.3 trillion (US$147.32 million) on in the 2012-13 period.

Trinh Xuan Thanh
Trinh Xuan Thanh

How Thanh and Thuan made losses at PVC

Thuan was appointed general director of PVC in 2009, with Thanh, born in 1966 in Hanoi, elected as the company’s chairman at the same time.

Under his leadership, the company was awarded contracts for many projects developed by its parent company, state-run oil and gas behemoth PetroVietnam, and PVC quickly grew into a strong enterprise with an impressive portfolio, attracting many companies as affiliates.

Vu Duc Thuan is seen in this 2011 file photo on the website of PetroVietnam Construction JSC

In August 2009, PVC began listing on the stock market and continued its expansion. In 2010 the company increased its registered capital to VND2.5 trillion ($111.61 million), and again to VND4 trillion ($178.57 million) just two years later.

Following their success, PVC began investing in the real-estate and financial investment sectors, where they quickly began to suffer losses.

At that time, PVC heavily invested several trillions of dong into nearly 40 realty and financial investment companies. (VND1 trillion = $44.64 million)

Those PVC-invested companies started incurring losses in 2011. Over the next two years, it was no secret to PVC subsidiaries and affiliates that they had suffered a total loss of more than VND3.3 trillion, or three quarters of PVC’s total registered capital.

But those losses had been kept secret from PetroVietnam, who quickly discovered the mishandlings after electing a new board of directors in 2013.

The loss-making company was immediately dealt a tough hand by the new PetroVietnam leaders, with the general director Thuan and the PVC chairman Trinh Xuan Thanh removed from their posts.

Following the dismissal at PVC, Thuan was transferred to PetroVietnam, before being appointed as deputy director of the Department of Transport of the northern province of Thai Binh, and later chief of the secretariat of the Ministry of Transport.

In the meantime, after being removed from the chairman post, Thanh was transferred to serve as the deputy chairman of the administration of the southern province of Hau Giang.

While serving at the Hau Giang administration, Thanh illegally used an official plate on his privately-owned luxury Lexus car.

On September 8, the Secretariat of the Party Central Committee decided to expel Thanh from the Party, with 100 percent of votes from all secretariat members.

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