Vietnam jails shipbuilding executive in graft crackdown

Hanoi (AFP) –


A Vietnam shipbuilding magnate has been sentenced to 13 years in jail for embezzlement, according to state media, the latest victim of an unprecedented anti-corruption drive in the communist country.

Scores of bankers, businessmen and current and former officials have been jailed in the crackdown that has gathered steam since 2016 when a conservative administration came to power vowing to stamp out graft.

Endemic corruption is rampant in Vietnam -- one of Southeast Asia's fastest growing economies -- with graft cascading from everyday business deals to the upper echelons of government.

The current administration has widened its drive to target mismanagement in the oil industry, the security services and the banking sector.

On Wednesday a court in Hanoi jailed Nguyen Ngoc Su, the former board chairman of state-run Vietnam Shipbuilding Industry Group (Vinashin), for "abusing position and power to appropriate assets", according to state press.

Former director Truong Van Tuyen was jailed for seven years on the same charges, while an ex-deputy director Pham Thanh Son got six years.

The men were convicted for depositing Vinashin capital into to Ocean Bank without the Prime Minister's approval, as required by law.

The court said they colluded with the bank to pocket $4.5 million.

"The defendants' acts were very serious," said Cong An Nhan Dan, the official mouthpiece of the Ministry for Public Security.

Ocean Bank is already embroiled in a scandal of its own.

Dozens of bankers and executives from the privately-owned lender have been jailed for mismanagement and corruption -- including its former director, who was sentenced to death for embezzlement in 2017.

Vinashin was once a crown jewel in Vietnam's state-run enterprises but has fallen from grace thanks to a series of misguided investments and controversies.

It nearly collapsed in 2010 before the state stepped in to save it, and today runs at a fraction of its former might.

Vietnam's conservative president and communist party leader, white-haired apparatchik Nguyen Phu Trong, has vowed to scrub out corruption at every level.

Observers say the anti-corruption drive that he has spearheaded -- which echoes China's campaign -- is unprecedented in its scope and scale.

Critics also say it is politically driven, aimed at stamping out his foes.

Vietnam ranks 117 out of 180 on its corruption perceptions index, worse than Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia.