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Life Sentences Sought in Vietnam

March 24, 1998

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) _ Prosecutors are seeking life sentences for three main defendants accused of graft, embezzlement and falsifying documents in one of Vietnam’s biggest corruption trials.

The case involves the Nam Dinh Textile Co. _ dubbed ``Corruption Corp.″ by local media _ and its losses in stolen funds, missing state revenue and bad debts totaling nearly $24 million.

The trial, which opened Friday, is expected to last 10 days in Nam Dinh, 60 miles south of Hanoi. Hundreds of police officers have ringed the courthouse to keep crowds at bay.

Loudspeakers have carried the proceedings to those outside, many of them family members of 9,000 employees laid off from the company. The firm still employs about 8,000 people.

The trial reflects rising corruption since Vietnam’s communist government relaxed controls and opened the economy in the mid-1980s.

Prosecutors are seeking life sentences for Nguyen Duy Kiem, director of the company; his successor, Nguyen Van Tuyen; and chief accountant Tran Ngoc Vinh.

Eleven other defendants on trial may face prison terms of 10 to 20 years.

The defendants are mostly company executives and two senior officials of the ministries of industry and finance. One has testified that a $1,600 payment prosecutors allege was a payoff was actually a bonus for Tet, the lunar new year.

Prosecutors say at least $323,000 went to bribe bank and government officials who helped the company secure loans.

Last May, a court in Ho Chi Minh City sentenced four people to death for corruption. Three were executed by a firing squad earlier this year. One was pardoned.

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