Vietnam shipping executives appeal jail terms

Eight former top executives at Vietnam's state-owned shipbuilder have appealed against lengthy prison sentences handed to them over their role in its near-collapse, official media said Wednesday.

Chairman Pham Thanh Binh, 58, was jailed for 20 years late last month for intentionally violating state regulations at Vinashin, which racked up billions of dollars of debts, shaking investor confidence in the communist country.

Eight other former top executives at the company, formally known as the Vietnam Shipbuilding Industry Group, were given sentences of between three and 19 years after a four-day trial in the northern port city of Haiphong.

Binh and seven of the men -- who according to Vietnamese law had 15 days from their sentencing to lodge an appeal -- recently sent their request to a higher court, the official Thanh Nien newspaper said Wednesday.

One other defendant, who received the lightest jail sentence of three years for illegal use of state owned property, did not appeal, the Tuoi Tre newspaper reported.

The defendants were given long sentences because their behaviour "was very dangerous, damaging public opinion, reducing public trust and the prestige of the country in the eyes of foreign investors", the presiding judge said at the time.

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

The executives were specifically 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.

Binh admitted during the trial that he had made mistakes but insisted that he had not acted for his own personal gain.

Experts say the trial has done little to ease the company's deeper financial woes.

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.

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