Runaway bigwig will be hunted down: Vietnamese general

Runaway bigwig will be hunted down: Vietnamese general
Trinh Xuan Thanh seen on the list of international wanted criminals. Photo by VnExpress

Vietnamese police have been asking their counterparts in the U.S., Canada and some European countries to help them hunt down a fugitive linked to massive losses of $150 million at a unit of state oil and gas PetroVietnam.

Trinh Xuan Thanh, former chairman of PetroVietnam Construction JSC (PVC), will be caught, Lieutenant General Phan Van Vinh, the general director of the central Police Directorate, said on the sidelines of a workshop on international fugitives on Wednesday.

“We have received strong support from many countries," Vinh said. "They promised to join hands with Vietnam to hunt down Trinh Xuan Thanh.”

He said Vietnamese police will find a way to bring the suspect to justice, even if the country does not have an extradition treaty with Germany, where the 50-year-old man is believed to be hiding.

The Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security last month issued an international arrest warrant for Thanh.

Thanh is accused of mismanagement and causing losses of around VND3.2 trillion ($147 million) at PVC, a unit of the state-owned oil giant PetroVietnam, under his watch between 2011 and 2013. Four other executives from the company have been arrested.

Thanh sought overseas sick leave in mid-August and has never returned since, the police said. He was expelled from the Communist Party on September 8, a move that would pave the way for him to face criminal charges.

The now-infamous official first caught media attention in June for driving a $230,000 Lexus with a government license plate in a country where the annual average income was around $2,100.

The scandal caused uproar over the use of public money, prompting the Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong to order a probe into his political career and how he had been promoted.

Government inspectors found that Thanh and his team, starting in 2009, had launched many offshoot units and partnered with a number of companies, but few of the ventures proved effective. Most of their business projects during the period ended up being delayed or even canceled.

After his stint at PVC, Thanh continued to be kicked upstairs with an apparently successful political track record, holding various government positions before taking his latest post as vice chairman of the Mekong Delta province of Hau Giang.

He was not nominated for re-election for the 2016-2020 tenure in June. Then in July, he was also stripped of his legislator-elect status.

At the workshop on Wednesday, Vietnamese police said the number of suspects fleeing the country surged to more than 1,100 as of September. The police have issued international warrants for 300 fugitives.

Most of the runaway suspects have fled to Cambodia, Laos, China and the U.S. on fake identities.

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