News 11 January 2018

Vietnam’s anti-corruption crackdown causes tension with Germany

Hanoi has put former senior executives from its state oil company PetroVietnam on trial, following a widespread crackdown on corruption. Vietnam is considered one of Asia’s most corrupt nations: Transparency International rates it as 113th out of 176 in its corruption perceptions index.

The 22 defendants in the trial include Trinh Xuan Thanh, the former head of PetroVietnam Construction, part of the PetroVietnam brand. The German foreign ministry believes that Thanh was abducted by Vietnamese security agents from Berlin in July, where he fled seeking asylum in 2016 following charges of embezzlement and economic mismanagement in Vietnam. The German government has since expelled two Vietnamese diplomats and protested against the ‘scandalous violation’ of its sovereignty. Hanoi insists that Thanh returned to Vietnam of his own volition.

Controversy over the ‘kidnapping’ of Thah risks deterioration in relations between the two countries. Germany is Vietnam’s most important trading partner in the EU. The trial is due to last until 21 January.

The trial follows the passing of the death sentence on former chair of PetroVietnam, Nguyen Xuan Son, in September, following a mass trial of 51 bankers and senior officials over their role in the loss of $69m. The imposition of a death sentence is unusual for such a senior figure. Son is to appeal the verdict.