Vietnam arrests more oil executives amid corruption crackdown

HANOI (Reuters) - Police in Vietnam arrested four executives of state oil firm PetroVietnam’s subsidiaries on suspicion of embezzlement on Thursday as the communist-led government widens a crackdown on corruption.

Dinh Van Ngoc, deputy chief executive officer of Nghi Son Refinery and Petrochemical LLC, and three others were accused of “abusing power to appropriate property”, the Ministry of Public Security said in a statement.

Ngoc was arrested for alleged wrongdoing committed when he previously served as general director of Binh Son Refining and Petrochemical, according to the statement.

Police also arrested Tu Thanh Nghia, former chief executive officer of Vietsovpetro, an oil joint venture between PetroVietnam and Russia’s Zarubezhneft.

The others arrested were Vo Quang Huy, former chief accountant of Vietsovpetro, and Nguyen Tuan Hung, head of the finance department of PetroVietnam’s leading production and exploration arm PVEP, the statement said.

The Ministry of Public Security said it is carrying out further investigation into the case.

Calls to PetroVietnam seeking comment went unanswered.

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 PetroVietnam, formally known as Vietnam Oil and Gas Group.

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

Last month, police arrested the chairman and chief accountant of Binh Son Refining and Petrochemical, also accused of embezzlement.

Binh Son, owned by PetroVietnam, operates the country’s first oil refinery, the 130,000-barrel-a-day Dung Quat plant.

Nghi Son Refinery and Petrochemical LLC, which owns the $9 billion Nghi Son refinery, is 35.1 percent owned by Japan’s Idemitsu Kosan Co, 35.1 percent by Kuwait Petroleum (IPO-KUWP.KW), 25.1 percent by state-run PetroVietnam and 4.7 percent by Mitsui Chemicals Inc.

Reporting by Khanh Vu; Editing by Adrian Croft