Two more suspended in Vinashin scandal

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Over the weekend, two senior officials were suspended from the debt-laden Vietnam Shipbuilding Industry Group, or Vinashin.

The decision came less than a month after the chairman of one of Vietnam's largest state-owned companies was arrested in the midst of a criminal investigation.

Tran Quang Vu and Tran Van Liem were suspended from the board, the government spokesman Nguyen Xuan Phuc announced in a release issued on August 29.

The decision was signed by Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung on August 27 and cited the ongoing "inspection into Vinashin's past operations," as the only reason for the two men's temporary removal.

Phuc said that Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung had requested that the company suspend Vu from his post. Vu served as General Director of the Nam Trieu Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, a Vinashin affiliate, before being promoted to his short-lived CEO position on July 1.

On August 30, Vinashin announced the appointment of Nguyen Quoc Anh, Vinashin's former chief business director, to be the company's new CEO.

The suspensions occurred less than a month after police arrested Vinashin chairman Pham Thanh Binh and charged him with reckless mismanagement. Investigators alleged that Vinashin racked up debts totaling VND86 trillion (US$4.5 billion) on Binh's watch.

The 57-year-old company head, who also held the CEO post prior to his arrest, is under investigation for "intentionally violating regulations on economic management that have resulted in serious consequences," according to a government press release.

Binh, a shipbuilding engineer from the northern port of Hai Phong City, became Vinashin's general director in 1996 and chairman in 1998. He has served as chief of the group's Party Unit since 2003.

Since Binh's arrest, the government has pledged to ensure that Vinashin finishes its ongoing projects.

On August 14, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung said that local banks have worked with Vinashin to develop a shipbuilding industry and must ensure that the company follows through on its commitments.

"Now that the industry faces difficulties, banks should continue to cooperate with the shipbuilding firms to complete the construction of unfinished ships," he said in a statement. "Ships have to be finished and sold so that the debts can be repaid."

Hung was assigned to oversee the restructuring process on August 13.

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