Vietnam Upholds Jail Terms for Shipping Executives

Aug. 30, 2012
The chairman of  Vinashin was given a 20 year jail sentence and seven other former top executives were handed sentences of between 10 and 19 years in the scandal which shook investor confidence.

An appeal court in Vietnam on Thursday upheld lengthy jail terms for eight former top executives at Vietnam's state-owned shipbuilder for their role in the scandal-hit company's near-collapse.

Chairman Pham Thanh Binh, 58, was jailed for 20 years in March after being found guilty of "intentionally violating state regulations" while running Vinashin, leading to billions of dollars of losses.

Seven other former top executives at the Vietnam Shipbuilding Industry Group (Vinashin), were handed sentences of between 10 and 19 years in the scandal which shook investor confidence in the communist country.

Only one of the nine defendants at the March trial -- who received the lightest jail sentence of three years for illegal use of state-owned property -- did not appeal.

At the appeal court hearing, which started Tuesday in the northern port city of Hai Phong, ex-chairman Binh admitted to making mistakes but blamed the global financial crisis for the losses.

"In the common situation of economic difficulties... I had to compete fiercely to obtain profits," he said.

"I did things wrong, but the momentum and the situation forced me to do so -- (it was) not that I understood my wrongdoing and kept proceeding anyway," he added, according to a report in the official Cong An Nhan Dan newspaper.

The court rejected all the appeals and did not reduce any of the executives' jail terms.

"The court found no grounds to agree with the defendants' appeals," a court clerk said, without giving further details.

Vinashin, the nation's largest shipbuilder, almost collapsed under $4.0 billion of debt and helped trigger a downgrade of Vietnam's credit rating.

The executives were specifically accused of losing the company more than $43 million, mostly from the procurement of an Italian-made high-speed passenger boat, as well as misjudged investments in two electricity plants.

In December 2010, Vinashin defaulted on the first $60 million installment of a $600 million loan arranged by Credit Suisse in 2007, but no further information on the loan settlement is available.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012

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