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Vietnam Court Suspends Ruling on Corruption Death Sentence

File - Duong Chi Dung, a former executive of a Vietnamese state-owned shipping firm.
The high profile corruption case of a Vietnamese shipping executive has taken another unexpected turn, with an appeals court in Hanoi questioning the defendants instead of ruling on their sentences.

Duong Chi Dung, former chairman of the Vietnam National Shipping Lines (Vinalines), was convicted and sentenced to death late last year for stealing $1.6 million and then fleeing the country to avoid prosecution. Eight others also were found guilty and give prison terms of seven to 22 years.

Dung’s defense lawyer, Tran Dinh Trien, said in a VOA's interview that he welcomed the move to question the defendants, saying there were many issues to be clarified in the case.

“We need to clearly examine whether Dung’s wrongdoings have to do with ‘intentionally violating state regulations’ or ‘lacking responsibility’ causing ‘severe consequences’ to come up with a legitimate sentence; however, there has not been enough evidence to convict Dung and Phuc on embezzling $1.66 million," said Trien.

Trien said the appeals trial would continue next week.

At the appeals hearing Thursday, Dung expressed his desire to live to prove his innocence, pledging to try his best to compensate for consequences caused by losses at the shipping company.

Earlier this year, Dung said the country's former deputy minister of public security, Pham Quy Ngo, told him about his impending prosecution, giving him a chance to flee to Cambodia to avoid charges. Ngo, who denied the allegation, died shortly after being accused.

The former shipping executive was later extradited, tried and sentenced to death for embezzlement. Dung testified that he had paid more than $1.5 million in bribes to Ngo.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Vietnamese service.