HANOI - Vietnamese police have arrested five more officials in connection with a probe into state-owned shipping firm Vinalines, official media said Thursday, as the scandal swirling around the debt-mired company intensifies.
The five, who were arrested Wednesday and include a former top accountant at the group, are under investigation for “deliberate wrongdoings” causing losses of nearly US$5 million (S$6.3 million), Lao Dong newspaper said.
Government inspectors in June said Vinalines, the country’s largest shipper, had defaulted on more than US$2 billion of debt.
All but two of 13 people under investigation were in police custody, Lao Dong reported.
There is also an international search warrant out for the group’s former chairman Duong Chi Dung, 55, after police failed to arrest him in May.
Inspectors said Vinalines wasted an estimated $1 billion buying more than 70 decrepit vessels which incurred huge expenses for repair and maintenance.
The growing Vinalines scandal follows last year’s sensational trial of top executives at state-run shipbuilder Vinashin, which nearly collapsed in 2010 under a mountain of debt.
Several officials of Vinashin were given lengthy jail terms for intentionally violating state regulations.
Vinalines was handed some of the loss-making sea transport projects from scandal-tainted Vinashin, but has mismanaged them.
State-owned enterprises (SOEs), many of which are widely regarded as badly managed, are a pillar of Vietnam’s economy, controlling two-thirds of capital and assets and enjoy cosy relations with officials.
The government this month announced new plans to restructure the SOE sector by 2015, although experts have questioned how the scheme will work in practice.