Senior Vietnamese Communist Party official faces punishment

A high-ranking Vietnamese Communist Party official faces punishment for wrongdoing when he was head of the country's oil and gas monopoly, PetroVietnam.

The party's Inspection Committee said in a statement Thursday that Dinh La Thang, a Politburo member and secretary of the Communist Party Organization of Ho Chi Minh City, was responsible for permitting an investment in the private Ocean Bank that exceeded regulations, causing "very serious losses to PetroVietnam."

PetroVietnam bought 20 percent of the shares in Ocean Bank for 800 billion dong ($35 million) in 2008. The State Bank of Vietnam acquired the debt-ridden bank for 0 dong two years ago, resulting in the loss of PetroVietnam's investment.

The statement said Thang was also responsible for a lack of oversight over four major projects, resulting in their suspension and financial loses that caused "very serious consequences."

The projects, which totaled hundreds of millions of dollars, were a polyester mill and three ethanol fuel plants.

The Inspection Committee proposed that the Politburo and Party Central Committee consider disciplinary measures against Thang. The Central Committee convenes its biannual meeting next month.

Party disciplinary measures include reprimands, warnings, dismissals and stripping of party membership.

It is rare for Politburo members to face such punishment, although dozens of current or former ministers, vice ministers or provincial leaders have been disciplined for violating party regulations.

Thang, 56, was chairman of the board of PetroVietnam from 2005 until he was appointed transport minister in 2011. The charismatic minister was popular for sacking officials under his ministry for wrongdoing.

He was elected to the powerful 19-member Politburo at a five-yearly Party Congress early last year and was later appointed secretary of the Communist Party Organization of the southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City.

Nguyen Xuan Son, who was general director of Ocean Bank, was promoted to head PetroVietnam in July 2014. He was arrested one year later for suspected abuse of power and state economic mismanagement.