Vietnam police arrest former deputy trade minister for alleged abuse of power

HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnamese police arrested Hoang Quoc Vuong, a former deputy minister of industry and trade, on Thursday for alleged abuse of power, the country’s public security ministry said, the latest case in a longrunning anti-graft campaign dubbed “blazing furnace”.

Police searched Vuong’s home and further investigation into his alleged wrongdoing is underway, a ministry statement said. Vuong committed wrongdoing while serving as deputy minister, it said, without giving further details.

Vuong, 60, was deputy minister of industry and trade from 2010 to 2012 and from 2015 to 2020. He also served as the chairman of state oil firm PetroVietnam from 2020 until the end of 2023.

The industry and trade ministry and PetroVietnam did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comments. Reuters was unable to reach Vuong for comment.

His arrest comes two weeks after a serving deputy minister of industry and trade was detained on accusations of bribery amid the ruling Communist Party’s years-long campaign against graft.

Hundreds of Vietnamese officials have been investigated for corruption and many have been forced to quit, including former president and premier Nguyen Xuan Phuc and two deputy prime ministers.

State media reports said Vuong was responsible for alleged wrongdoing related to the advisory and policymaking process for energy development, including renewable energy projects.

“The violations have led to serious and irreparable consequences, causing losses to the state and social resources,” Voice of Vietnam Radio reported.

Vietnam saw a surge in solar and wind power plants between 2018 and 2022 as investors were rushing to take advantage of high feed-in-tariffs, causing strain to the national power grid. Many of the projects have been found to have licensing violations.

The anti-graft campaign has also reached deep into Vietnam’s corporate sector, with tycoons, top stockbrokers, property developers and even regulators ensnared, last year triggering a $40 billion wipeout for stocks and rattling investor confidence.

Thursday’s arrest comes as a former health minister and a former minister of science and technology are facing a trial in Hanoi over accusations of bribery during the country’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

(Reporting by Khanh Vu; Editing by Devjyot Ghoshal and Frances Kerry)