Former customs officer wanted for hiding Vinalines ex-chief

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Vietnamese police are searching for a former customs officer who allegedly helped a senior official involved in a multi-million dollar graft case flee the country last May.


Dong Xuan Phong, 38, former officer of the Hai Phong City Customs Department's Anti-Smuggling Team, is wanted for hiding Duong Chi Dung, the ex-head of state-owned Vietnam National Shipping Lines (Vinalines) and helping him to flee the country, police said without elaborating.


Dung, 55, is accused of "deliberately violating state economic regulations causing serious consequences" while at the helm of Vinalines between 2005 and February this year, before being appointed as head of the Transport Ministry's maritime department.


Dung was arrested on September 4, more than four months after he left the country in an attempt to escape the Ministry of Public Security's investigation.


The police said he was apprehended in an ASEAN country and extradited to Vietnam by Interpol. It did not name the country.


On May 18, investigators entered Dung's house in Hanoi in a failed attempt to arrest the senior official. Subsequent investigations found he had fled his home the previous day.


According to the warrant issued by the ministry at that time, Dung was to be placed in custody for investigation for a period of four months.


The government ordered an investigation into Vinalines after state inspectors found several irregularities and fraud committed by company officials between 2007 and 2010, including in the purchase and inefficient use of old ships.



The firm incurred losses of more than VND2.6 trillion (US24.7 million) last year and VND1.2 trillion in 2010, but falsely reported profits.


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

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