The People’s Court of Hà Nội on Friday announced its verdict against two senior leaders of the Việt Nam-Russia oil venture Vietsovpetro as the first-instance trial looking into their charge of abusing power to misappropriate assets wrapped up.
Từ Thanh Nghĩa, 57, former director-general of the company, received three and a half year in prison, down from the original sentence of 4-5 years that the Supreme People’s Procuracy proposed on Thursday on the first day of the trial. Similarly, the proposed 8-9 years sought for Võ Quang Huy, 58, the company’s former chief accountant, was brought down to 7 years.
The two are also forbidden from taking up manager positions at any State-owned enterprise or business three years after they have completed their sentences.
According to the Supreme People’s Procuracy, in 2013 and 2014, defendants Huy and Nghĩa decided to make several fixed-term deposits worth VNĐ1.9 trillion (nearly US$82 million) and $55 million at the private bank OceanBank’s branch in Vũng Tàu.
As a way to encourage Huy and Nghĩa to continue opting for the bank’s service, Nguyễn Minh Thu, deputy director-general of OceanBank, paid the two defendants extra interest not stated in the contracts.
Nghĩa admitted to receiving a total of VNĐ1.5 billion and $30,000 from Thu on several occasions, with the locations, times, and amount for each time matching Thu’s account, according to the indictment.
The prosecutor said Huy received a total of VNĐ5.2 billion and $130,000 from Thu as per her statement, but Huy insisted that he had only received a little over VNĐ4.1 billion. The court said that despite the fact that there were no receipts or any evidence that could prove Thu’s statement, it has sufficient grounds to conclude that Huy took VNĐ4.1 billion.
Defendant Huy was the one proposing placing deposits and forms of deposits at OceanBank, and defendant Nghĩa signed the contracts, the indictment reads.
Combined with the fact that Huy received more illicit money than Nghĩa, the prosecutor holds Huy to a higher degree of criminal liability.
The court said they went for reduced sentences for the two defendants after taking into account their honesty, contributions to the oil sector and good work performance, and that they have returned in full the misappropriated money.
The court deducted the original sentence for Nghĩa on the basis that he has received many accolades and awards, and authored scientific studies that have resulted in “large economic values”.
Since the defendants have all returned the amount of money they appropriated, the court will not ask for further indemnity. The money will be used to correct the losses taking place at OceanBank, involving its now jailed chairman Hà Văn Thắm and several other senior executives at the State-owned oil group PetroVietnam charged with the same collusion on priorisiting deposit services at OceanBank.
Prior to the verdict, Nghĩa apologised to colleagues and said there are still two State-level research projects worth a billion US dollar underway that he wished to see through.
Vietsovpetro, established in June 1981, operates in line with the bilateral agreement between the Vietnamese Government and the then Soviet Union as well as Vietnamese domestic laws. According to the latest agreement signed in 2010, the Vietnamese Government contributes 51 per cent (or $765 million) to Vietsovpetro’s charter capital.