Vietnam prosecutors call for shipbuilder sentences
HANOI, Vietnam—Prosecutors in Vietnam recommended a 19- or 20-year prison term for a shipbuilding giant's former executive Thursday.
Prosecutors recommended the sentence for Pham Thanh Binh, former chairman of state-owned Vietnam Shipbuilding Industrial Group, state media reported Thursday.
Binh and eight other former executives of the group known as Vinashin went on trial Tuesday in the northern city of Hai Phong. They are accused of violating government regulations that nearly led to the conglomerate's collapse.
The prosecutors recommended that Binh's colleagues receive sentences ranging from three to 18 years, state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper said.
The court's verdict is expected later Friday.
Vinashin, one of Vietnam's largest state-owned companies, was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy in 2010. Its debts were estimated in June of that year at $4.5 billion -- about 4.5 percent of the communist country's gross domestic product.
The scandal-wracked company lost $43 million as a result of the purchase of three used ships without government approval and the importation of two secondhand power plants.
Online newspaper VnExpress quoted Binh as telling the court Tuesday that he purchased a ship from Italy without government approval because he wanted to develop a high-speed sea link more quickly. Vinashin purchased the ship in 2007 for 60 million euros ($80 million).
Vinashin also expanded into areas outside shipbuilding that included everything from animal food production to tourist resorts.
The shipbuilding conglomerate was established in 1996, and the Communist government had high hopes that it would become one of the world's top shipbuilders, while serving as an example of the country's new success as it opened up to foreign trade and investment.
In December 2010, Vinashin defaulted on the first payment on a $600 million loan from a group of creditors led by Credit Suisse.
Ratings agencies have downgraded Vietnam's credit rating, citing problems at Vinashin as one of the reasons for the action.
The case was extensively covered in the state-controlled media and a National Assembly member in 2010 shocked many in a bold move by calling for an investigation to determine whether Cabinet members, including Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, were responsible for the losses.