Duong Chi Dung (in white), the former chairman of Vinalines, at the appeal trial on May 7, 2014
The Supreme People’s Court, the country’s highest court, upheld death sentences given to two former executives from the state-run Vietnam National Shipping Lines (Vinalines) on Wednesday.
The Hanoi People's court handed them the sentences last year after finding them guilty of embezzling VND10 billion (US$474,000) each in a high-profile case that rocked the country.
Duong Chi Dung, the former chairman of Vinalines, and Mai Van Phuc, the former general director, were among nine defendants seeking appeals.
The Supreme People’s Court found capital punishment was justified in this instance given the amount the pair embezzled and the fact that Dung fled the country instead of giving himself up to police after the case broke.
The court said Dung and Phuc's executions will provide a necessary deterrent to others in the public sector.
Dung and Phuc also got 18 years and 10 years respectively for "intentionally violating state regulations on economic management, causing serious consequences," according to the court's ruling.
Defendants in the trial were also ordered to pay more than VND366 million ($17.36 million) to the state.
Dung and Phuc were among 10 defendants prosecuted in a trial that was meant to highlight Vietnam's commitment to clamping down on public corruption in the face of widespread outrage.
Of the other defendants, Tran Huu Chieu, the former deputy general director, and Tran Hai Son, the former director of a unit, also had their sentences upheld. Chieu got 19 years and Son got 22 years for "embezzlement" and "intentionally violating state regulations on economic management, causing serious consequences."
Prosecutors from the Supreme People's Procuracy, Vietnam's highest prosecutors' office, said that in 2007, with Dung's approval, Vinalines began to build a shipyard to repair ships in Southern Vietnam for more than VND3.8 trillion ($180.1 million).
The firm bought a used dock from Russian-owned company Nakhodka through a Singaporean brokerage firm called AP. Manufactured in Japan in 1965, it was heavily damaged and unusable, and originally offered for $2.3 million.
Vinalines ended up paying a whopping $9 million to buy it and another $10.5 million to repair it.
Chieu, then vice general director of Vinalines, and Son, then director of Vinalines Ship Repairing Ltd., Co, Mai Van Khang, an employee of Vinalines, and Le Van Duong, an employee of the Vietnam Register, visited Russia to inspect the dock.
They were aware of its condition and actual price and reported them to Dung and Phuc. But the two ordered them to write a report saying the dock was in good enough condition to buy.
Dung, Phuc, Chieu, and Son received a $1.66 million kickback from the Russians for the deal, according to the indictment.
Dung fled the country, allegedly with the help of his police officer brother when the scandal first broke in May 2012.
He was apprehended in Cambodia and brought back to Vietnam four months later.
Three customs officers in the south-central province of Khanh Hoa were found guilty of illegally clearing the dock.
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