$19 mln corruption case at Vinalines on trial

This file photo shows the old floating dock anchored at Go Dau Port in southern Dong Nai Province (Photo: Tuoi Tre)

This morning, The Hanoi People’s Court opened the trial for Duong Chi Dung, the ex-chairman of Vinalines and former head of the Vietnam Maritime Administration, and his nine accomplices in a serious corruption case that occurred at the State-owned corporation five years ago.

These defendants, including six former chief officials of the debt-stricken Vietnam National Shipping Lines (Vinalines), have been charged with “intentionally violating state regulations on economic management, causing serious consequences,” and “embezzlement.”

Judge Ngo Thi Anh is chairing the hearing that is expected to last until December 14. Three lawyers will defend Dung during the trial.

These defendants violated applicable regulations and acts against the Prime Minister by purchasing a used floating dock from abroad at a high price in 2008, causing a loss of VND366 billion (US$17.26 million). They also embezzled a total of $1.66 million.

After the scandal was uncovered and many officials involved were arrested, Dung fled from Vietnam in May 2012 with the support of several police officers, including his younger brother, former colonel Duong Tu Trong, who at that time was deputy director of Hai Phong City Police.

Dung was hunted internationally and was arrested in Cambodia on September 4, 2012 and was later extradited to Vietnam.

The corruption case is among the six serious cases that were scheduled to go to trial from November 2013 and is the third that has been tried so far.

Buying old dock at high price

According to the indictment, on June 27, 2007, Duong Chi Dung, who was the company’s new chairman at that time, signed a decision to approve the plan to set up the plant in the coastal province of Ba Ria – Vung Tau at a total cost of VND3.85 trillion ($181.6 million) without waiting for the directive from the Prime Minister.

In October 2007, Dung approved the plan to purchase the 83m floating dock in Russia, which was built in 1965, at $9 million through a broker, the Singapore-based AP Co. Meanwhile, the owner of the old floating dock in Russia, Nakhodka Co, offered to sell it for only US$5 million.

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This file photo shows the old floating dock anchored at Go Dau Port in southern Dong Nai Province (Photo: Tuoi Tre)

Vinalines had bought the floating dock before the ship repairing plant project was approved, so there was no place to install and utilize the equipment.

Consequently, the floating dock had to be docked at Go Dau Port in southern Dong Nai Province, which resulted in huge expenses for port leasing, bank loan interest, and repairing costs.

Embezzlement

According to the investigators, Vinalines officials had known that the floating dock was too old to meet import standards but still bought it.

After the deal, AP transferred $1.666 million as a kickback to the accused officials through the bank account of the Phu Ha Co Ltd, whose director is Tran Thi Hai Ha, the younger sister of Tran Hai Son, former CEO of the Vinalines Shipyard Co Ltd.

Upon receiving the money, Son gave Dung and Phuc VND10 billion each. Son took VND6 billion himself and gave Ha VND2 billion, and Tran Huu Chieu, Vinalines former deputy CEO, VND340 million.

The results of the investigation showed that Ha did not know her brother had taken advantage of her account to access the embezzled money. She later returned the money to the investigators, so she was not charged with “embezzlement.”

List of the defendants

Besides Duong Chi Dung, the other nine defendants in the serious corruption case are as follows:

1. Mai Van Phuc (former Vinalines CEO)
2. Tran Hai Son (former CEO of Vinalines Shipyard Co Ltd)
3. Tran Huu Chieu (former Vinalines deputy CEO)
4. Mai Van Khang (former deputy CEO of Vien Duong Vinashin Co)
5. Bui Thi Bich Loan (former head of Vinalines finance-accounting board)
6. Le Van Duong (registry official at Vietnam Registry)
7. Huynh Huu Duc (former deputy head of the Van Phong Customs Agency in Khanh Hoa Province)
8. Le Van Lung (customs officer at Van Phong Customs Agency in Khanh Hoa)
9. Le Ngoc Trien (customs officer at Van Phong Customs Agency in Khanh Hoa)

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