Vietnam upholds death sentences against shipping execs in major corruption case

By Viet Dung   August 19, 2017 | 10:25 am GMT+7

But without a major overhaul of the country's public sector, stern sentencing may be only cosmetic, analysts say.

A court of appeals in Hanoi on Friday upheld the death sentences against two executives from the corruption-hit shipping industry after convicting them of pocketing nearly $12 million in deals made between 2006 and 2008, the latest punishment meted out as the ongoing crackdown on the public sector is widening.

At the first trial in February, Giang Kim Dat, the former sales manager of the troubled shipbuilder Vinashinlines, and Tran Van Liem, the company's former CEO, were sentenced to death for stealing more than VND260 billion ($11.65 million) from the company between 2006 and 2008.

In February, the firm’s former accountant, Tran Van Khuong, also got a life sentence for abetting the embezzlement, while Dat’s father Giang Van Hien received 12 years in prison for money laundering. Friday's appellate court upheld all these sentences.

vietnam-upholds-death-sentences-against-shipping-execs-in-major-corruption-case

Dat, Liem and Khuong at the court of appeals on Friday. Hien was absent on health grounds. Photo by VnExpress/Viet Dung

According to the indictment, Dat siphoned off the money from 16 deals to buy or lease old vessels. He also advised Liem on how to buy and lease ships and colluded with foreign partners to rig prices for personal gain.

The investigation found that Dat paid Liem $150,000 and Khuong $110,000 in the scam. The rest of the embezzled money was transferred to multiple bank accounts in Hien’s name, who used it to buy houses and cars.

After his wrongdoings were discovered, Dat fled aboard and was arrested in July 2015 following an international arrest warrant.

Vinashinlines is a subsidiary of Vinashin, a shipping behemoth that racked up debt of $4.5 billion in 2010 before being restructured into the Shipbuilding Industry Corporation in 2013.

The Vinashinlines case is one of six serious corruption and economic mismanagement cases the government planned to bring to trial by the end of March 2017. The others involved violations at Agribank, OceanBank, VietinBank, the Vietnam Waterway Construction Corporation and a public development fund in the northern province of Bac Ninh.

However, authorities have failed to bring these cases to a close.

The trial took place in the context of Vietnam's widening crackdown on corruption and malfeasance at the much-cosseted yet inefficient public sector.

But analysts say infrequent but harsh punishment can only serve as a deterrent to contain large-scale corruption in the short run. They say without a major overhaul of the state sector, which has proved a drag on a once-thriving economy, corruption will remain endemic.

"Evidence from all over the world suggests the death penalty is not a deterrent to grand corruption," said Carl Thayer, a Vietnam expert at the University of New South Wales in Australia.

"The death penalty for high level corruption might win some publicity and approval from the public. But this feeling wears off when large scale corruption continues," Thayer said.

 
 
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