Vietnam's disgraced Vinalines boss says senior gov't official tipped him off to arrest

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Duong Tu Trong, former vice director of the northern port city of Hai Phong's Police Department, stands a trial in Hanoi on January 7 for helping a senior official convicted of embezzlement flee Vietnam in 2012 / PHOTO COURTESY OF VNA

The former chairman of state-owned shipping giant Vinalines who was arrested and sentenced to death for embezzlement after fleeing the country has said a senior official with the Ministry of Public Security informed him of the arrest in advance.

Duong Chi Dung told a hearing by the Hanoi People's Court on Tuesday that he was tipped off by Pham Quy Ngo, Deputy Minister of Public Security and a member of the Communist Party's Central Committee, in return for a total of US$510,000 he paid Ngo.

Ngo was also the chief of an inspectorate tasked with investigating violations at Vinalines.

Dung was speaking at the trial of seven people, including his brother Duong Tu Trong, the dismissed vice director of the northern city of Hai Phong's Police Department, who were accused of helping him flee Vietnam in May 2012.

In response to Dung's accusation, Ngo told online newspaper Dan Viet in a telephone interview that same day that he was not involved in Dung's escape and that police need to clarify the matter.

Trong and his accomplices face charges of "organizing illegal transportation of people to other countries."

Prosectors Tuesday proposed jail terms of 18 to 20 years for Trong and sentences between five to 18 years for the other defedants.

According to the indictment, on May 17, Dung, then director of the Vietnam Maritime Administration, received a phone call informing him that the ministry had that day issued an order to arrest him over a dock scam at Vinalines.

He called his younger brother, who instructed him to hide at his mistress's house in Hanoi.

Trong together with Vu Tien Son, 47, and Nguyen Trong Anh, 28, both Hai Phong police officers, and customs officer Nguyen Thai Hung, drove to Hanoi together.

Trong ordered Hoang Van Thang, 43, another police officer, to drive a car to pick up Trong's friend Pham Minh Tuan, 52, director of a transport company in Hai Phong, and then Dung, before heading to the northern province of Quang Ninh.

Prosecutors said Trong gave Dung a cellphone through Thang and Tuan, and asked Son to be in charge of contacting involved people to avoid raising suspicion.

After arriving at Quang Ninh, the group left Dung at his mistress's father's house, and then returned to Hai Phong, where Son met with Dong Xuan Phong, another Hai Phong customs officer who is still at large, and Tran Van Dung, 45, a Hai Phong resident, to discuss the plan on May 19.

Son gave his accomplices new phones and they used nicknames to call each other.

They planned to send former-chairman Dung to Cambodia through the Moc Bai border gate in the southern province of Tay Ninh, and then to the US.

Thang and Anh picked up Dung in Quang Ninh and brought him to Ho Chi Minh City by car, where Trong and Son also travelled by plane and met them on May 22.

They drove the Vinalines' former chairman to Moc Bai, from where he was driven to Cambodia by xe om (motorbike taxi). Phong and the other Dung also entered Cambodia with fake passports.

On May 23, Phong bought air tickets for him and Dung to fly to Singapore, where Dung would fly to the US and Phong return to Vietnam.

However, since Dung was not allowed to enter the US, he returned to Cambodia on May 27 and lived at the house of Son's friend in Phnom Penh.

On May 29, Phong came to Cambodia and gave Dung $4,000. He came to Cambodia again on July 6, this time to move Dung to another friend's house.

The other Dung also came to give the former official another $30,000 from Trong.

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On September 4, Vietnamese police in collaboration with Cambodian agencies arrested Dung and extradited him to Hanoi.

Last month, he and his subordinate Mai Van Phuc, the company's general director, got the death sentence for embezzling VND10 billion ($474,000) each.

They had led eight others, most of whom were executives and employees with Vinalines, to purchase an unusable floating deck from Russia in 2008 for $9 million and then invest another $10.5 million into repairing it.

The purchase was estimated to have caused more than VND500 billion ($23.5 million), including port rental and security fees, in losses to the exchequer so far.

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