Vietnam handed out verdicts to 51 bankers accused of graft and mismanagement causing $69 million in losses, amid corruption crackdown.

Nguyen Xuan Son (C), former chairman of Petro Vietnam, was found guilty of embezzlement, intentional breaches of state rules and abuse of position and power. September 29, 2017. (Reuters)
Nguyen Xuan Son (C), former chairman of Petro Vietnam, was found guilty of embezzlement, intentional breaches of state rules and abuse of position and power. September 29, 2017. (Reuters) (Reuters)

A court in Vietnam sentenced to death a former chairman of state-run Petro Vietnam on Friday after finding him guilty in a mass trial of 51 officials and bankers accused of graft and mismanagement that led to losses of $69 million.

The death sentence for former Petro Vietnam chairman Nguyen Xuan Son was the first time in years it had been given to such a senior former official and comes amid an intensifying corruption crackdown and manoeuvring within the ruling Communist Party.

Son was arrested in 2015, under the previous government administration. On Friday, he was found guilty of embezzlement, intentional breaches of state rules over economic management leading to serious consequences and abuse of position and power.

Son maintained his innocence and would appeal against the verdict from the People's Court of Hanoi, his lawyer, Le Minh Tam said.

The death penalty had been recommended by the state prosecution.

Former chairman of state-run Petro Vietnam, Nguyen Xuan Son (L), was arrested in 2015 and sentenced to death. Founder of Ocean Group, Ha Van Tham (R) was also on trial and found guilty resulting in life imprisonment. September 29, 2017. (AP)
Former chairman of state-run Petro Vietnam, Nguyen Xuan Son (L), was arrested in 2015 and sentenced to death. Founder of Ocean Group, Ha Van Tham (R) was also on trial and found guilty resulting in life imprisonment. September 29, 2017. (AP) ()

The court in Hanoi also sentenced Ha Van Tham, founder of Ocean Group and once one of Vietnam's most high profile tycoons, to life imprisonment. 

He was found guilty of embezzlement, violations of bank lending regulations and abuse of power.

Dozens of other banking and energy officials were also jailed.

The head of a unit of state-run shipping firm Vinashin was sentenced to death over losses in February, but he was much less senior than Son.

Investigations into Petro Vietnam have seen a Politburo member who was a former Petro Vietnam chairman, a vice trade minister sacked from their positions and a former deputy central bank governor prosecuted.

The court finished hearing the case against Son on Monday, when he pleaded for the court not to give "an unjust verdict" and said he could not believe he was being prosecuted for embezzlement and had become "like a soulless person."

Tham admitted the charge of lending violations at Ocean Bank, but denied graft allegations. Neither he nor Son were given a chance to speak after the verdict on Friday.

Source: Reuters