Two former executives at the state run-Vietnam National Shipping
Lines (Vinalines) were sentenced to death Monday for alleged
The website for the Thanh Nien newspaper
said, "Duong Chi Dung, the former chairman of Vinalines, and Mai Van
Phuc, its former general director, received the death sentences after a
Hanoi court convicted them of 'embezzlement.' Dung and Phuc also got 28
years and 18 years, respectively, for 'intentionally violating state
regulations on economic management, causing serious consequences,' the
The newspaper said they "were among 10 defendants in the four-day
trial that began last Thursday in Hanoi in a case that has highlighted
Vietnam's efforts to show it is clamping down on corruption in the face
of widespread public anger over the issue."
It said two other defendants, "Tran Huu Chieu, the former deputy
general director, and Tran Hai Son, the former director of a unit, got
19 years and 22 years, respectively, for 'embezzlement' and
'intentionally violating state regulations on economic management,
causing serious consequences.' Two other Vinalines employees, three
customs officers and an officer with the Vietnam Register office
received jail terms between four and eight years for 'intentionally
violating state regulations on economic management, causing serious
The Bloomberg news service
said both Dung and Phuc denied the charges throughout the trial, with Dung saying he "wasn’t greedy or thinking about
personal gain,” and Phuc saying, “I
didn’t receive any money.”
Bloomberg said, "The defendants allegedly falsified technical specifications
of a 43-year-old, non-functional floating dock and overpaid for
it, causing a loss of about 367 billion dong for the state,
according to the indictment. The defendants allegedly embezzled
a total of 28 billion dong, it said. The sentence for embezzling
more than 500 million dong is 20 years to life imprisonment or
death." $367 billion Vietnam dong is equal to about $17.4 million; 28 billion dong about $1.3 million.
When I read that two former executives at the state run-Vietnam National Shipping Lines (Vinalines) were sentenced to death Monday for alleged embezzlement, I was troubled.
I know nothing about the executives and precious little about Vinalines. The state carrier of Vietnam is a small player in the container business — the 74th largest in the world, according to Alphaliner's Top 100 list — with a fleet 14 container ships with a total carrying capacity 8,485 TEU. Vinalines's fleet also includes dry bulkers and tankers.
It was just two years ago on Christmas, December 25, 2011, that one of its ships, M/V Vinalines Queen disappeared. Only one member of its 23-member crew survived. Liquefaction of its nickel ore cargo is suspected as the cause. That accident was certainly a tragedy, even more so because it was just a series of accidents involving ships carrying similar cargo.
While $17.4 million, the amount of loss the condemned men are said to have cost the state, or even $1.3 million, the amount they are accused of embezzling, is perhaps a great deal of money in Vietnam, execution is cruel. It's going to be hard for me, this Christmas, not to view the death sentence for these two executives also as a tragedy.
Two further thoughts.
Ships are expensive assets and ship accidents — tanker spills, for example — can be extremely destructive. It is easy to to imagine a scenario where a mistake or even a deliberate action, perhaps a desire to cut corners to save money, could result in far more than $17.4 million in damage to ships, ports, or even the vital fisheries of Vietnam. Is Monday's sentence a precedent to be followed in the future?
I also wonder if sentencing a man to death might chill efforts to fight corruption. It's one thing to blow the whistle on a bad guy knowing he will go to jail. It's another thing to send him to his death.