The Supreme People's Procuracy, Vietnam's highest prosecutors' office, has charged 15 executives and employees at a subsidiary of the state-owned PetroVietnam for allegedly embezzling over VND85 billion (US$3.97 million).
Meanwhile, police are still hunting for Trinh Van Thao, the alleged mastermind of the scheme and former general director of the loss-making affiliate, Petroleum Mechanical Executing and Assembly Joint Stock Company (PVC-ME).
Thao fled to the US in 2012 before the investigation began.
Among the 15 other defendants, former chairman Vu Duy Thanh and vice director Tran Xuan Tinh were charged with “criminal negligence” for failing to detect the fraud and signing several fraudulent payment slips worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Meanwhile, others face charges of “deliberately violating state regulations on economic management.”
Investigators say that between November 2009 and September 2012, Thao instructed his alleged co-conspirators to pocket over VND47 billion ($2.19 million) from the company budget.
Thao allegedly set up a slush fund in which to deposit the payments in exchange for a cut.
The money was withdrawn as advanced payments on company projects and signed for by 20 employees who never received the money.
Investigators said the suspects also funneled over VND38 billion ($1.77 million) in customer and partner payments into Thao's slush fund.
Their actions allegedly caused VND51.7 billion ($2.42 million) in losses for PVC-ME, its partners, and the government.
According to the Ministry of Finance, PVC-ME accumulated losses of over VND451 billion ($21 million).