Another cop seized for abetting official's escape in graft case

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Another police officer in the northern city of Hai Phong has been arrested for helping a former maritime official wanted in connection with a multi-million dollar graft case flee the country last year.

Hoang Van Thang, a lieutenant-colonel with Hai Phong's environmental police division, will be held in custody for four months, said Pham Duy Dien, spokesman for Hai Phong's police department, quoting the Ministry of Public Security's decision announced on Wednesday.

Thang will be investigated for his alleged involvement in the escape of Duong Chi Dung, former head of state-owned shipping giant Vinalines and the Transport Ministry's Vietnam Maritime Administration.

Dung, 56, had fled Vietnam prior to the arrival of investigators at his house to arrest him on May 18. He was apprehended by Interpol in another Southeast Asian country in September and extradited back to Vietnam.

He has been charged with "deliberately violating state economic regulations causing serious consequences" while at the helm of Vinalines between 2005 and February 2012.

Following Dung's escape, the ministry's investigators also arrested three other police officers in Hai Phong for allegedly abetting the former official's escape.

Investigators are hunting another suspect, Dong Xuan Phong, a former customs officer in Hai Phong. Phong is also wanted by Ho Chi Minh City police for smuggling.

State inspectors found several irregularities and incidents of fraud committed by Vinalines officials between 2007 and 2010, including the purchase and inefficient use of old ships.

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Several have been either arrested or summoned for questioning.

The firm incurred losses of more than VND2.6 trillion (US$24.7 million) last year and VND1.2 trillion in 2010, but falsified its reported profits.

A government report in June of last year said the corporation faced a "very difficult" financial situation, with debts totaling more than VND43 trillion ($2 billion).

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