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Ex-officials at Vietnamese firm sentenced to death

Former CEO and sales manager at state-owned company found to have stolen millions in country's largest embezzlement scandal

22.02.2017
Ex-officials at Vietnamese firm sentenced to death

By Bennett Murray

HANOI, Vietnam

A Vietnamese court issued the death penalty Wednesday for two former executives at state-owned shipbuilding firm Vinashin in the largest embezzlement scandal to hit the nation.

Tran Van Liem, the former CEO at the company’s Vinashinlines subsidiary and Giang Kim Dat, its former sales manager, were sentenced to death by a Hanoi court for embezzling $16 million from the firm.

Dat and Liem were found guilty of using their positions to steal assets, including conspiring with business partners to fix prices on ships the company had acquired in the late 2000s.

As sales manager, Dat received between 2 and 3.75 percent on every closed transaction.

Tran Van Khuong, Vinashinline’s ex-chief accountant, was also sentenced to life imprisonment on the same charge while Giang Van Hien, Dat’s father, received a 12-year sentence for money laundering.

All men claimed innocence at their six-day trial.

Vinashin, which the government had flooded with debt on the expressed hope that its shipbuilding prowess would elevate Vietnam on the global stage, had a peak debt of $4.5 billion when the scandal emerged in 2010.

The embezzlement was particularly embarrassing for Vietnam when the company defaulted on $600 million in foreign loans the same year.

Moody’s attributed the fate of Vinashin, which had been funded partially by a $750 million sovereign debt issuance, when it downgraded Vietnam’s credit rating in 2010.

Nine officials, including Liem, were convicted of other charges related to the scandal in 2012.

Liem had been sentenced to 19 years for failing to stop the embezzlement, although he wasn’t yet considered one of its chief beneficiaries.

Dat, who fled the country in 2010, had been hiding in several countries on fake passports over a five-year period before being returned in 2015 to face trial.

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