World News

Vietnam jails former bosses of state shipbuilder for $1-million graft

HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam has jailed four former heads of state-owned shipbuilder Vinashin for terms of up to 17 years over abuse of power and embezzlement, state media said on Thursday, as the Southeast Asian nation cracks down on graft.

Vinashin’s former chief accountant, Tran Duc Chinh, was handed a 17-year jail sentence by the Hanoi People’s Court on Wednesday, the official Vietnam News Agency (VNA) said.

Former chairman Nguyen Ngoc Su received a 13-year term and a former director and a former deputy director of the company received sentences of seven and six years each, it added.

All four former executives were penalised for “abusing their positions and power to appropriate assets” at the company, the agency said.

Several of Vietnam’s high-ranking ministers and politicians, including one Politburo member and a string of police officers, have all received prison sentences in the crackdown on charges ranging from embezzlement to economic mismanagement.

Some government critics say the crackdown, which began under the leadership of ruling Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong in 2016, has political motivations.

Vinashin, now known as the Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, was once a symbol of Vietnam’s postwar economic promise but became a debt-laden behemoth plagued by a corrupt leadership that siphoned off or misdirected cash into non-core investments.

It nearly collapsed in 2010 under the weight of almost $4.5 billion in debt. Nine other former executives at Vinashin were jailed in 2012.

From March 2011 to August 2014, the news agency said, former chief accountant Chinh received more than 105 billion dong ($4.5 million) in interest from large deposits Vinashin made at OceanBank, a domestic lender taken over by the central bank in 2015 after failing to pay its debts.

Chinh divided up that interest between the other three executives for use at the firm but all four were also able to pocket a combined 22.7 billion dong ($973,622.13) for personal use, the agency added.

The Hanoi People’s Court has ordered the four former executives to pay back the illegally appropriated funds, it said.

($1=23,315.0000 dong)

Reporting by James Pearson; Editing by Clarence Fernandez