Vietnam police probe oil executive in widened crackdown

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HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnamese police have officially started investigating a former chief executive of state-owned energy giant PetroVietnam amid a widened crackdown on corruption.

The Ministry of Public Security said in a statement Wednesday that police also placed Phung Dinh Thuc under house arrest. Thuc is suspected of "deliberately violating state economic regulations causing serious consequences" in his role at a thermo power plant, the statement said.

Thuc was general director of PetroVietnam from 2008 to 2010 and chairman of the board from 2011 until his retirement in 2014.

On Tuesday, police ordered the prosecution and house arrest of Phan Dinh Duc, a board member of PetroVietnam, on the same charge.

Scandal-hit PetroVietnam has been in the center of a sweeping high-level anti-corruption crackdown over the past two years with more than 20 of its current or former senior executives on trial or under investigation.

Earlier this month, police arrested Dinh La Thang, a former member of the all-powerful Politburo of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam, for allegedly violating economic regulations while he was chairman of the board of PetroVietnam.

Thang was the first Politburo member to face prosecution in decades. Hoang Van Hoan, a former Politburo member and a former vice chairman of the National Assembly, was sentenced to death in absentia in 1979 for treason after he had fled the country.

PetroVietnam made international headlines in August when Germany accused Vietnam of kidnapping Trinh Xuan Thanh, a former chairman of PetroVietnam's subsidiary PetroVietnam Construction Corp., near a park in central Berlin. Vietnam's Ministry of Public Security said in a statement at that time that Thanh had turned himself in to police.

The incident has strained relations between the two countries. Germany expelled two Vietnamese diplomats in retaliation.

The government has announced that Thanh will stand trial for embezzlement and mismanagement in January.

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