Vietnamese police confirmed this week that a former top-ranking trade official is being sought for arrest by the international police agency Interpol and has been stripped of her membership in Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party over accusations of corruption.
Ho Thi Kim Thoa, Vietnam’s former deputy trade minister, has been charged with the mismanagement of land owned by the state, causing “losses and waste” under Article 219 of Vietnam’s Penal Code, Public Security Ministry chief To An Xo told reporters in Hanoi on Wednesday.
Ho fled Vietnam on a flight from Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport on Oct. 22, 2018, To said, adding that her current whereabouts are unknown. A warrant for her arrest was then issued on Sept. 4 this year, with a wanted notice sent out by Interpol the same day.
Rumors that Vietnamese police had arrested Ho in France in November and that she would shortly be sent back home were dismissed on Nov. 19 by Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Le Thi Thu Hang, who told reporters that her Ministry had no knowledge of an arrest.
Speaking to the press on Wednesday, To An Xo also denied any knowledge of Ho’s arrest, affirming she is still being sought.
On Wednesday, the Secretariat Board of Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party expelled Ho as a party member.
Growing numbers of cases
Corruption cases involving senior government officials in Vietnam have increased in number in recent years, with convictions often bringing harsh sentences.
In December 2019, a former Vietnamese government minister and his deputy were sentenced to a life term and 14 years in prison respectively in a case of corruption that is said to have cost the state budget almost U.S. $3 million, state media sources said.
Son Bac Nguyen, former Minister of Information and Communications, and his deputy Tuan Quoc Tran were convicted by the Hanoi People’s Court for accepting bribes to arrange the acquisition of private TV company Audio Visual Global (AVG) by the state-controlled telecom firm MobiFone.
And in January 2018, Vietnam jailed a former state oil executive for life and gave a recently dismissed senior Communist Party member and other officials long prison terms for corruption and economic mismanagement related to millions of dollars of losses to the energy and banking sectors.
The highest-profile corruption trial to target Vietnam’s political elite to that date saw Trinh Xuan Thanh, the former head of PetroVietnam Construction (PVC)—who was believed to have been kidnapped in Germany by Vietnamese police—sentenced to 14 years for mismanagement and life in prison for embezzlement, state media said.
Former Politburo member Dinh La Thang, who once chaired the board of PetroVietnam, was meanwhile sentenced to 13 years in prison, while other officials and executives were given prison terms as long as 22 years.
Transparency International, a Berlin-based global anticorruption coalition, ranked Vietnam 96th among 180 countries on its Corruption Perceptions Index for 2019 and gave the country a score of 37 on a scale in which 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.
Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Huy Le. Written in English by Richard Finney.