Vietnam executives on trial over shipping scandal

Former top executives at a Vietnamese shipbuilder whose huge debts shook investor confidence in the communist nation went on trial on Tuesday for defying state regulations.

State-owned Vietnam Shipbuilding Industry Group, better known as Vinashin, almost went bankrupt with debts totalling more than $4 billion in a scandal that sent ripples through Vietnamese politics.

The scandal sparked investor fears of wider problems at state-owned firms, a key pillar of Vietnam's economy.

Following a police probe, the group's 58-year-old former chairman, Pham Thanh Binh, and eight other executives were indicted in November.

The defendants "intentionally violated state regulations on economic management", the president of the court Tran Van Nghiem said on the opening day of the trial, which is expected to conclude on Friday.

If convicted the former executives face up to 20 years in prison each.

All nine were taken to a court in the northern port city of Haiphong at dawn under tight police security, according to an AFP reporter at the scene. After about one hour, the court allowed their shackles to be removed.

The scandal piled pressure on Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, who appointed Binh and was considered close to the disgraced executive.

At the height of the scandal in 2010, one lawmaker even called for a rare vote of no confidence in the premier.

"The prime minister wants to show that, after being extremely weakened by the affair, he is back at the helm and in control of the opening up of the Vietnamese economy," said Benoit de Treglode, director of the Bangkok-based French Institute of Research on Contemporary Southeast Asia.

"Vinashin's rise was closely linked to Dung's career after he became premier in 2006," he told AFP.

"Through Vinashin, Dung tried to imitate the South Korean chaebols (business groups) like Hyundai, dreaming that the group could spearhead Vietnam's industrialisation while offering exceptional jobs to those close to him."

State-owned groups, many of which are widely regarded as badly-managed, control some two-thirds of capital and assets in Vietnam and enjoy cozy relations with officials.

Before its near-failure Vinashin was seen as a new model of state-owned enterprise that would lead Vietnam's efforts to compete on a global stage, experts say.

In 2008, the company had $6 billion of orders on its books, 60,000 employees, 28 shipyards and projected growth of 35 percent a year, according to a briefing note by consulting firm Oxford Analytica.

Binh once boasted that by 2015 Vietnam would be the world's number four shipbuilder.

Now the former Vinashin executives are accused of losing more than $43 million, mostly from the procurement of an Italian-made high-speed passenger boat as well as two electricity plants.

Questioned about one of the power plants in northeast Quang Ninh province, Binh told the court: "I was wrong in the project, but because of objective conditions... We did not give any privilege to the contractor. The bid for the project was completely objective," he said.

In December 2010, the company 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 since then is available.

The government has said that no political leaders would be punished for the problems at Vinashin and the company is being restructured.

  • Treasure trove of British newsreels reveals Top Gear's ancestors 12 hours ago
    Treasure trove of British newsreels reveals Top Gear's ancestors

    Long after television grew to dominate American and British homes, newsreel producer British Pathé kept at it, documenting the news of the day until finally ceasing production of new short films in 1970 after 60 years of effort. Last week, all of British Pathé's 85,000 films were put online — including dozens of fascinating, rare and often weird car films that resemble nothing so much as a jet-age Top Gear.

  • Nissan tests self-cleaning paint that could make car washes obsolete 14 hours ago
    Nissan tests self-cleaning paint that could make car washes obsolete

    During this vile, never-ending winter, motorists had three options to keep their cars clean: Shell out on regular car washes; slave away in the cold, wind and snow washing it yourself, or screw it and just drive a dirty car. I, like many, chose the last option. But if only I'd been able to test Nissan's self-cleaning car, all my troubles would have washed away.

  • Popular hot yoga myths debunked 20 hours ago
    Popular hot yoga myths debunked

    What’s the hottest new workout taking the world by storm? That would be hot yoga, also known as Bikram yoga. Conducted in a heated room with sweltering temperatures of about 40°C (or approximately 104° Fahrenheit) and 40 per cent humidity, … Continue reading →

  • Photo of a very thin Lee Kuan Yew sparks concern
    Photo of a very thin Lee Kuan Yew sparks concern

    A new picture of Singapore's first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, who is now 90 years old, has drawn concern from people on Singapore's internet space.

  • Waste oil collector struggles after STOMP posts, receives help from kind souls
    Waste oil collector struggles after STOMP posts, receives help from kind souls

    After being photographed at work in Jurong pooling used oil near coffee shops, 50-year-old Valerie Sim has been struggling to keep her family afloat. Web portals STOMP and The Real Singapore published pictures of her in February, triggering a witch hunt for others like her and comments from readers like “Who knows if they’ll use it as cooking oil?” Some readers also said they filed police reports against her and other people they believed were doing the same thing she was.

  • I tendered my resignation without securing the next job. Here’s why I don’t mind.
    I tendered my resignation without securing the next job. Here’s why I don’t mind.

    I have committed a taboo – I have tendered my resignation without securing the next job. The reactions to the announcement were varied but they all pretty much hint at a deep sense of disapproval. “Why did you do that?” It was as if I had renounced my faith. “What are you going to do from now on?” Almost as though a misfortune had incapacitated me. “What does your family have to say about it?” As if I had offered to cook for the next family dinner. I was, and still am, certain of my reasons and motivations for the resignation. However the response I received got me thinking about why people are so concerned about the gaps in their careers. The developed world evolved from an agricultural economy to an industrial economy to the service age, then to the knowledge economy in the late 1990s and 2000s marked by breakthroughs in technological innovations and competition for innovation with new products and processes that develop from the research community. According to The Work Foundation, the knowledge economy is driven by the demand for higher value added goods and services created by more sophisticated, more discerning, and better educated consumers and ... The post I tendered my resignation without securing the next job. Here’s why I don’t mind. appeared first on Vulcan Post.