Vinashin, officially known as Vietnam Shipbuilding Industry Group, almost went bankrupt last year with debts totalling more than $4 billion.

The troubles sparked investor fears that the scandal was symptomatic of wider problems at state-owned firms, a key part of Vietnam's economy.

Following a police probe, the group's former chairman, Pham Thanh Binh, and eight other executives were indicted in November for deliberately acting against state regulations on economic management, causing serious consequences.

The charge carries a maximum 20 years in prison.

Their four-day trial will start Tuesday in the northern port city of Hai Phong, the court clerk told AFP, although she would not confirm the number of defendants or provide further information on the proceedings.

All nine have been detained since being arrested in August 2010. Vietnam's Ministry of Public Security has filed an international warrant for two other former top executives.

The case piled pressure on Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, who appointed Binh and was considered close to the disgraced executive.

At the height of the scandal in 2010, one lawmaker even called for a rare vote of no confidence in the premier.

"The whole thing has got to be a huge embarrassment to Dung particularly as he was the guy who gave Vinashin its start," David Brown, a retired US diplomat who served in several posts throughout Southeast Asia, told AFP.

Ex-chairman Binh, who the November indictment said made "critical violations" in many projects while at helm of Vinashin, was "a protege" of Dung's, Brown said.

Dung appeased some of his more strident critics by apologising to the National Assembly in November 2010 and accepting responsibility for the scandal, experts say.

He told the communist country's legislative body that he and other top officials would "not let a similar case like the Vinashin case happen."

The police investigation into Vinashin focused on the loss of more than $43 million, most of which reportedly disappeared on projects to develop a high-speed passenger boat and a failed electricity plant.

In December 2010, the company defaulted on the first $60 million instalment of a $600 million loan arranged by Credit Suisse in 2007.

No further information on how the loan had been settled since then is available.

The government has said no political leaders would be punished for the problems at Vinashin and that the company is being restructured.

By Cat Barton - Agence France Presse - March 23, 2012