Two former Vinashin officials face criminal charges

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Two former senior Vinashin officials are under investigation for allegedly causing losses of more than US$3 million to the state-owned shipbuilder, the Ministry of Public Security investigators said on Wednesday.

Ho Ngoc Tung, 53, former director of Vinashin Finance Company (VFC) and his deputy Trinh Thi Hau, 47, are now charged with "deliberately violating state economic regulations, causing serious consequences." The crime is punishable by jail terms of up to 20 years under Vietnam's Penal Code.

On Tuesday, police searched their homes and detained Hau. They have yet to apprehend Tung, who allegedly travelled abroad for a medical procedure.

A police source told Thanh Nien that Tu and Hau had illegally disbursed more than VND60 billion ($3 million) that Vinashin had borrowed from the state budget.

Hau is allegedly also under investigation for her role in a purchase made by Vinashin's Hoang Anh Information Technology Company.

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Investigators are looking into the company's acquisition of used equipment for use at the Song Hong (Red River) Thermoelectricity Plant project.

So far, police have detained Hoang Anh's General Director, Nguyen Van Tuyen, and the Former Chairman of the Cuu Long Investment Joint Stock Company, Nguyen Tuan Duong, for their alleged role in the case.

Police say Vinashin officials went ahead with the purchase despite the fact that it had been rejected by the government. Tuyen (then the project's investor) and Duong (who acted as the main contractor) purchased 50 year-old equipment harvested from a thermo-electric plant in South Korea that was shut down in South Korea in 2004.

Police say the equipment contained toxic substances that were banned from import and export by both countries.

Driven to the edge of bankruptcy, Vinashin had racked up debts totaling VND86 trillion (US$4.4 billion) by June 2010. The debts included more than VND100 billion ($5.13 million) in salaries.

Vietnamese authorities have already arrested eight former Vinashin officials. Pham Thanh Binh, the company's former chairman and chief executive officer, was arrested in August 2010.

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