Vietnam jails former politburo official for 13 years in graft crackdown

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HANOI (Reuters) – A court in Vietnam on Monday sentenced a former politburo official to 13 years in prison and another high-profile energy official to life imprisonment for embezzlement and violating state rules, in a corruption crackdown, state media said.

Dinh La Thang, a former politburo official and the most senior Vietnamese politician tried in decades, was jailed for 13 years for “deliberate violation of state regulations on economic management that caused serious consequences,” state-run Voice of Vietnam and the Vietnam News Agency said.

Trinh Xuan Thanh, a high-profile official whom Germany said Vietnamese agents kidnapped in a Berlin park in a scene reminiscent of Cold War disappearances, was sentenced to life in prison for both violating state regulations and embezzlement.

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Dinh La Thang is one of the most senior officials to go on trial in decades

A former Communist Party official has been sentenced to 13 years in jail in Vietnam after the most high-level trial in decades.Former Politburo member Dinh La Thang was found guilty of economic mismanagement over losses in state oil firm PetroVietnam.The trial is part of a showcase crackdown on corruption involving high-profile energy and banking executives.Another executive from the firm, Trinh Xuan Thanh, was sentenced to life.His case came to international attention last year, when the German foreign ministry accused Vietnam of illegally kidnapping him from Berlin, where he was seeking asylum.The trial is seen by some as a showcase of the Communist Party’s fight against corruption.But correspondents say it is also seen by some as a purge of opponents of leading Party officials.

They received jail terms ranging from three years suspended to nine years.Trial of untouchable figuresJonathan Head, BBC South East Asia correspondent

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Ousted PM Nguyen Tan Dung

Ever since a conservative faction of the Communist Party gained control of the politburo at the last party congress two years ago, it has pursued officials thought to have become unusually wealthy during the decade-long tenure of ousted Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

The Party leadership is using the widely publicised trials both to break up any potential opposition by those close to Mr Dung, and to show the public that they are serious about curbing the corruption which has proliferated during Vietnam’s rapid economic expansion.Thang, who had been considered a rising star of Vietnamese politics, was sacked from the Politburo in May, a very rare move in the one-party state.Since Vietnam started economic reforms in 1986, only two other Politburo members have been dismissed.He was accused of « serious violations » in his leadership which had « hurt the Party’s reputation ».

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The disappearance of a former Vietnamese official in Berlin last summer gave the outside world an early glimpse into an anticorruption drive captivating communist-run Vietnam.

Germany said Vietnamese agents kidnapped Trinh Xuan Thanh, who had been seeking asylum there.

But Vietnam said the former executive at state-owned oil-and-gas giant PetroVietnam returned home of his own accord to face corruption charges stemming from losses of $150 million.

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