Vietnam arrests oil refinery executives amid corruption crackdown

HANOI (Reuters) - Police in Vietnam arrested the chairman and the chief accountant of Binh Son Refining and Petrochemical Co. Ltd. on suspicion of embezzlement on Thursday as the communist-led government widens a crackdown on corruption.

Nguyen Hoai Giang, chairman, and Pham Xuan Quang, chief accountant, were accused of “abusing power to appropriate property”, the Ministry of Public Security said in a statement.

Binh Son Refining and Petrochemical is a unit of the state-run Vietnam Oil and Gas Group and the operator of the Southeast Asian country’s first oil refinery, Dung Quat.

The ministry said in the statement it was widening the investigation into the case. It did not elaborate.

Giang, Quang and their lawyers were not immediately available for comment.

The 130,000-barrel-a-day Dung Quat refinery in the central province of Quang Ngai became operational in 2009, meeting around one-third of Vietnam’s demand for refined petroleum products.

In January, the government raised $245 million by selling a 7.79 percent stake in Binh Son Refining and Petrochemical in an initial public offering.

Indian Oil Corp applied to be the refinery’s strategic investor in February.

Thursday’s arrests come amid a corruption crackdown in Vietnam that has seen several senior government officials and executives of state-owned enterprises arrested and jailed.

According to Vietnam’s penal code, anyone found guilty of abusing power to appropriate property may face life in prison.

Earlier this year, Vietnam jailed former Politburo member Dinh La Thang for 31 years for financial irregularities at Vietnam Oil and Gas Group.

Thang, 57, who denied any wrongdoing at his trial, is the highest-level politician to have been jailed in Vietnam for decades.

Reporting by Khanh Vu; Editing by James Pearson and Nick Macfie