Official: Vinalines corruption case challenges Vietnam’s anti-corruption will

Prof. Nguyen Minh Thuyet says Duong Chi Dung's crime means destruction of the national economy

Prof. Nguyen Minh Thuyet says Duong Chi Dung’s crime means destruction of the national economy

Duong Chi Dung’s corruption case at Vinalines has aroused great public criticism and the punishment he gets will measure the country’s anti-corruption will, one official has said.

Prof. Nguyen Minh Thuyet, former Vice Chair of National Assembly’s Committee for Culture, Education, Youth and Children, made the statement in a recent interview with DTiNews concerning the major corruption case at the Vietnam National Shipping Lines (Vinalines). The interview continued:

According to the conclusions of the investigative agency, Vinalines’ former chairman, Duong Chi Dung, was the culprit who ordered the purchase of Floating Dock 83M at a much inflated price in order to misappropriate USD1.6 million from state funding. What are your comments about this case?

As far as I know Duong Chi Dung pocketed USD1.6 million but the discrepancy between the listed price, (USD5 million) and the amount paid (USD9 million) was USD4 million. Not to mention that the substandard dock purchased was unusable so in fact the entire investment of USD9 million was completely useless and seriously harmed the State budget. This is a really fiendish corruption case and it’s absolutely unacceptable. This crime should be punished to the fullest extent of the law, especially in the context of the current economic downturn, tight State budget revenues, a series of sluggish projects due to capital shortfall and people’s difficult lives. Recently, a poor mother in southern Ca Mau Province opted to commit suicide instead of continuing to get medical care so as to save money for her family and help them be classified as poor to give her children a chance to continue their education. Dung’s crime drew so much anger from people because this is really destruction of the national economy.

In your opinion why did Dung dare to do this?

I must say that it would have been insane if Dung had used his own money to invest in such a dangerous project, however, in this case, Dung used money from the State budget, and he knew very well how to take advantage of the loopholes in the current management mechanism. To finish such a major scheme, Dung must have had several accomplices. I’m sure he could not have done it alone. Of the total loss of USD5.7 million, Dung and his accomplices admitted misappropriating USD1.6 million but it’s still unclear where the rest of the money went. The investigative agency has proved the involvement of customs agents in the case but I wonder if they stole all the rest or not.

Dung spent most of his misappropriated money on buying luxury houses for his girlfriend. What do you think about this?

It seems like it was so easy for him to misappropriate money from the state budget, so why would he hesitate to spend money buying two luxury apartments for his girlfriend. It’s hard to understand how such a debauched human being was appointed as director of the Vietnam Maritime Administration in the first place. It’s just so ridiculous.

Looking at the case of Vinalines, how do you now see the case of the troubled Vietnam Shipbuilding Industry Group (Vinashin)?

Vinalines was not the first state-owned enterprise to be betrayed by its leaders. Vinashin owed up to VND85 trillion (USD4.02 billion), plus accumulated interest of around VND50 trillion (USD2.36 billion) over the past three years.

This means that Vinashin will be unable to settle its debts seeing it has annual revenue of only VND14 trillion (USD662.4 million) even if it halts salary payments for its staff and stops all investment projects. Public concerns have been raised over the efficiency of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and people begin to wonder which SOE will implode next. This is a known outcome for the state-owned economic sector due to lax management.

SOEs use up to 70% of our country’s natural resources and as much as 40% of the State budget but their contributions to the national economy are so much lower than those of private firms. SOEs are seen as the major stones pulling down national economic growth, yet there’s still no convincing explanation why the government insists on this economic model.

Many said that the tricks used by Duong Chi Dung at Vinalines to steal money from the State budget are nothing new and not really so sophisticated because they were so easily uncovered. What do you think about this?

I do believe that their tricks are nothing new. Actually, several SOEs are doing the same thing: buying unusable equipment and facilities like the Floating Dock 83M. Vinashin for instance, spent money extravagantly on buying a downgraded Hoa Sen ship. Why didn’t they buy new things, or confer beforehand about what to buy, with scientists and research institutes instead? It’s obvious that they tried to devise a scheme expressly in order to swindle money from the government.

But why couldn’t management agencies detect and prevent such misconduct?

I really believe the situation is attributable to several things. However, people have the right to wonder about where the rot stops because such major acts of corruption could not be conducted without cooperation from several different forces.