Lawyers reject evidence in Vinalines appeal

By Thai Son, Thanh Nien News

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Duong Chi Dung (in white), the former chairman of Vinalines, during an appeals trial in Hanoi on April 29. PHOTO: THAI SON
Defense attorneys representing two former executives from the state-owned shipping giant Vinalines balked at evidence submitted by a Russian vendor indicating that their clients had paid four times the asking price for a decrepit floating dock during an appeals trial on Tuesday.
The documents indicated that Vinalines had purchased bought a dock listed by Nakhodka, a Russian-owned company, for US$2.3 million in 2008.
Vinalines allegedly contracted a Singaporean brokerage firm called AP to pay a whopping $9 million for the dock, which required another $10.5 million in repairs, according to prosecutors.
Duong Chi Dung, former chairman of Vinalines, Mai Van Phuc, former director general, Tran Huu Chieu, former deputy director general, and Tran Hai Son, former director of Vinalines Shipyard Limited Company, stand accused of making $1.66 million in kickbacks on the deal, prosecutors said.
Two Russian witnesses, including Nakhodka's director general, were cross-examined in court, but both said they were unaware of the kickbacks.
Lawyers representing Dung and Phuc said that the documents submitted by the Russian firm have not been translated and notarized by Vietnamese consular agencies in Russia and fail to meet the standard of legitimacy.
On Monday, Son continued to affirm that he had given Dung and Phuc VND10 billion (US$474,000) each as part of the $1.66 million kickback allegedly paid by AP to Vinalines officials.
Son told investigators that after the purchase of the dock, the Singaporean brokerage firm transferred $1.666 million into a bank account belonging to Phu Ha Co Ltd, whose director is Tran Thi Hai Ha, Son’s younger sister.
He said that he took VND6 billion ($284,600) himself and gave Ha VND2 billion ($94,900) and Chieu VND340 million ($16,130).
Both Dung and Phuc rejected Son’s allegation, insisting that they've received no kickbacks related to the deal.
The Hanoi People’s Court sentenced the pair to death on December 16, 2013 after convicting them of "embezzlement."
They also got 28 years and 18 years respectively for "intentionally violating state regulations on economic management, causing serious consequences," the Hanoi court said.
Amid broad public outrage, the pair was tried as part of a group of 10 defendants during a trial meant to highlight Vietnam's commitment to prosecuting corruption.
Of the other defendants, Chieu and Son got 19 years and 22 years respectively for "embezzlement" and "intentionally violating state regulations on economic management, causing serious consequences."
Two other Vinalines employees, three customs officers and an officer with the Vietnam Register office received jail terms of between four and eight years for "intentionally violating state regulations on economic management, causing serious consequences."
The court also asked those defendants to pay damages of billions of dong each.
Following their initial convictions, nine defendants appealed the verdict.
The appeals trial will resume on May 7 after national holidays to celebrate the 49th anniversary of Vietnam's Reunification Day and International Workers' Day.

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