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January 07, 2014

Senior Vietnamese Official Identified in Corruption Trial

by Trung Nguyen

A man sentenced to death in Vietnam last month for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars in state funds says Deputy Minister of Public Security Pham Quy Ngo informed him of the order to prosecute him, prompting him to flee the country to avoid being arrested.
 
Duong Chi Dung made the confession Tuesday as a witness at the trial of his younger brother Duong Tu Trong. Trong is charged with helping his older brother, a former executive of Vietnam's state-owned Vinalines shipping, escape to Cambodia in March 2012. The disgraced Duong was caught and extradited to Vietnam six months later.
 
The revelation has rocked Vietnam's political arena and sparked heated debate on social networks.
 
Trong's defense lawyer, Nguyen Dinh Hung, told VOA's Vietnamese service the confession will turn his client's case around.
 
“They cannot conclude that my client [Trong] masterminded the flight of Duong Chi Dung when a high ranking official had told him to flee," said Hung. "If his confession is proven to be true, there is an intervention of an official at a higher level in the case. It is unfair for my client.”
 
Deputy Minister Ngo has denied involvement, telling online newspaper VnExpress that Dung's confession is a lie.
 
“It is fabricated. Where is the evidence?" said Ngo. "I am the head of the investigation. How can I tip him off?”
 
Prosecutors have reportedly asked the judge to press charges against Ngo for leaking secrets.
 
A verdict could be reached in Trong's trial as early as Wednesday.
 
Duong Chi Dung and another executive of the state-owned shipping company Vinalines were found guilty of siphoning off $950,000 and mismanaging state funds to the detriment of the country's economy. They were both sentenced to death last month.
 
This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Vietnamese service.

An earlier version of this report referred to Pham Quy Ngo as Deputy Minister of Public Affairs. He is Deputy Minister of Public Security.  VOA regrets the error.