08 January, 2018
Vietnam is trying 22 business leaders on corruption charges, including a former top Communist Party official.
The trial is part of the campaign against corruption by Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong.
Most of the business leaders on trial are current or former officials of the state-owned PetroVietnam oil company.
Dinh La Thang was a former chairman of PetroVietnam and a former member of Vietnam's powerful Politburo.
The Politburo is the top political committee in a communist form of government.
Thang is accused of wrongdoing for his part in providing a contract to another company without a required bidding process. He also is accused of involvement in a deal that resulted in a $5.5 million loss to the state.
Thang is the first former Politburo member to face charges in many years. He could receive up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.
Trinh Xuan Thanh is another former chairman of PetroVietnam. He is accused of several charges including taking $186,000 for himself. The crime of embezzlement can be punished with a death sentence in Vietnam.
Last August, Germany said the Vietnamese intelligence service kidnapped Thanh from a park in Berlin. Vietnam denied the accusation. Officials said Thanh turned himself in voluntarily. However, the incident caused Germany to expel two Vietnamese diplomats.
Le Hong Hiep is an expert at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore. He said, the trial "sends out a stern warning that there will be no ‘no-go zones' in this campaign, and corrupt officials, no matter who they are and what position they hold, will be brought to justice."
Hiep added that, in the past, political power was divided in Vietnam. The division weakened the country's efforts against corruption. Now the general party secretary has increased powers.
Ngo Quang Hung is a retiree who was among the crowd gathered outside the courthouse. He said, "I'm happy that the government is getting tough on corruption."
Foreign media, however, are not permitted to attend the trial, which is expected to last two weeks.
Speaking in Berlin, German Foreign Ministry spokesman Rainer Breul said embassy representatives were inside the courtroom.
"We will observe it very closely and then evaluate what this means for our policy," Breul said.
Germany is Europe's largest economy.
I'm Jonathan Evans.
Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English based on AP news reports. Mario Ritter was the editor.
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Words in This Story
contract –n. an official business agreement to provide goods or services
bidding –n. a process in which different companies or individuals compete by offering a lower price for a good or service
embezzlement –n. to steal money you have been trusted with
stern –adj. very serious
zones –n. areas or places that are different than others for some reason
evaluate –v. to judge something giving it careful thought