They are among 22 defendants, most of them current or former senior oil executives, in the country's highest-profile corruption case.

Prosecutors recommended 14-15 years in prison for former Politburo member Dinh La Thang, ex-chairman of state-owned energy giant PetroVietnam, on charges of violating management regulations by choosing PetroVietnam's Construction Joint Stock Co., or PVC, to build a thermo power plant without a proper bidding and appraisal process.

Thang is accused of ordering an advance payment of $67 million to PVC, which did not use the funds for the proper purpose, causing losses of $5.5 million to the state.

Prosecutors requested life imprisonment on embezzlement charges for former PVC chairman Trinh Xuan Thanh, who Germany claims was snatched from a Berlin park by Vietnam's intelligence service. He was also charged with mismanagement.

Prosecutors also sought jail terms of 10 to 13 years for three former chairmen of PetroVietnam for alleged mismanagement, and recommended that the remaining 17 defendants be given suspended sentences to 28 years in prison.

"Putting the defendants on trial accomplishes a fight against corruption in which there are no no-go zones, no exemptions regardless of who the accused are," the state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper quoted a prosecutor as saying.

Once a rising political star, Thang was dismissed from the all-powerful Politburo in May and was subsequently fired as Communist Party secretary of the southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City. He was arrested on Dec. 8.

Thang is the first former Politburo member to face prosecution in decades.

The trial, which opened in Hanoi on Monday, is expected to last two weeks.

PetroVietnam and the banking sector have been at the center of an unprecedented crackdown on corruption under the watch of Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong.

Scores of PetroVietnam executives and bankers have recently been put on trial. Forty-six people, including many former bankers, are currently on trial in Ho Chi Minh City for alleged mismanagement.

Vietnam ranked 113th out of 176 countries in Transparency International's 2016 corruption index.

The Associated Press - January 11, 2018