Claims about info leak from police in graft case baseless: ministry

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Duong Chi Dung, former chairman of Vinalines, his brother's trial on January 7 / PHOTO COURTESY OF TUOI TRE

The Ministry of Public Security spokesman said investigators had found no evidence to support a former official's claim that a senior ministry official tipped him off to his arrest in a multimillion dollar graft case. 

Lieutenant-general Hoang Kong Tu, chief of the ministry's security investigation department, was speaking in an interview on the ministry's website on Wednesday.

During a hearing in Hanoi on Tuesday, Duong Chi Dung, former chairman of the state-owned shipping giant Vinalines, said that Deputy Minister Pham Quy Ngo informed him of his imminent arrest in May 2012.

The tipoff allowed him to flee Vietnam for four months before being apprehended in Cambodia. He was sentenced to death for embezzlement at a trial last year.

Dung was giving his testimony as a witness at the trial of his younger brother Duong Tu Trong, dismissed vice director of the northern city of Hai Phong's Police Department. He and six others were on trial for assisting Dung's escape.

Asked about the accusations, Tu said Dung had already told officers with his department about the informant during the investigation.

They reported the information to ministry leaders and were ordered to investigate it, but they did not find any record of phone calls exchanged between Dung and Ngo.

"Dung himself changed his statements many times, so there were not enough bases to prove [his claims]," Tu said.

But he also said that the ministry would "closely" collaborate with other related agencies to continue investigating Dung's accusations that he had paid Ngo and other two officials, all in charge of investigating a floating dock scam at Vinalines, in order to escape charges.

"Wrongdoers will not be allowed to go scot-free and will be punished in accordance with the law...miscarriage of justice will not be permitted to happen either," he said.

According to Dung, he had paid US$510,000 to Ngo, $20,000 to Tran Duy Thanh, former chief of the ministry's anti-corruption department (C48), and $10,000 to another officer with C48 referred to as Son.

On Wednesday, the Hanoi People's Court announced that an investigation would be launched to clarify how Dung knew of his arrest in advance.

It defined the charge being investigated as "the deliberate leak of a national secret," meaning that violators could face a jail term of 15 years.

The court also asked city prosecutors to investigate Dung's bribery accusations against the police officials.

Prosecutors were also asked to probe his claim that he had forwarded VND20 billion ($940,000) to Ngo from Truong My Lan, chairwoman of Van Thinh Phat Group, in return for awarding the latter a contract related to a project at Saigon Port in Ho Chi Minh City.

Accusations

According to Dung, after the ministry's inspectorate summoned him for questioning about the purchase of an unusable floating dock in 2008, on April 29, 2012, he and his wife visited Ngo's family in the northern province of Quang Ninh, where the latter was on vacation.

He asked Ngo for help and paid him $10,000.

In return, the deputy minister said he would take care of things, and told Dung to use a new phone number to contact him by phone.

On May 2, Dung brought another $500,000 to Ngo's house.

He said through Ngo's introduction, he got to know Thanh and gave him $20,000 along with a bottle of wine.

On May 7, he came to C48's headquarters where he met Son and asked for the latter's phone number. He then came to Son's house and gave him $10,000.

On May 17, Ngo called him saying that C48 proposed charges against three people at Vinalines, including him, according to Dung, adding that Ngo told him "to go away for some time."

After that Dung called his younger brother, who sent other defendants to transport him to the northern province of Quang Ninh, and then Ho Chi Minh City, and finally the southern province of Tay Ninh.

From Tay Ninh, he was driven to Cambodia, where he flew to the US.

However, since he was not allowed to enter the US, he returned to Cambodia, where he was arrested on September 4 by Vietnamese police in collaboration with Cambodian agencies.

In response to Dung's accusations, Ngo told online newspaper Dan Viet in a telephone interview that same day that he was not involved in Dung's escape and that police needed to clarify the matter.

Thanh, who is now chief of Interpol Vietnam, meanwhile, refused to  comment, but said "investigators will clarify the claims," Tuoi Tre reported on Thursday.

Last month, Dung and his subordinate Mai Van Phuc, the company's general director, got the death sentence for embezzling VND10 billion ($474,000) each.

They had led eight others, most of whom were executives and employees with Vinalines, to purchase an unusable floating dock from Russia in 2008 for $9 million and then invest another $10.5 million into repairing it

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The purchase was estimated to have caused more than VND500 billion ($23.5 million), including port rental and security fees, in losses to the exchequer so far.

Dung's brother, Trong, was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Trong's six other accomplices who assisted him in helping Dung escape, including three Hai Phong police and customs officers, got jail terms of between five and 13 years.

Another customs officer accused of being involved in the plan is still at large.

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