Vietnamese investigators shine spotlight on PetroVietnam units as massive banking graft case widens

By Ba Do   September 13, 2017 | 08:37 pm PT
Vietnamese investigators shine spotlight on PetroVietnam units as massive banking graft case widens
Ha Van Tham (C), former board chairman of OceanBank, at a trial in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Xuan Hoa
Three subsidiaries of the state-owned giant are accused of colluding with OceanBank execs to appropriate $5.2 million.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security opened criminal probes on Wednesday into three member companies of state-owned fuel giant PetroVietnam for their involvement in multi-million-dollar losses at OceanBank.

Investigators suspect “collusion” between the bank’s executives and leaders of Vietsovpetro, Binh Son Refinery and PetroVietnam Exploration Production Corporation (PVEP) to appropriate money from the bank.

The investigation was launched amid the ongoing OceanBank trial in Hanoi, where 51 bankers and businesspeople are in the dock for causing losses of $94 million, one of the biggest bank fraud cases ever brought to court in Vietnam.

According to the indictment, the losses were incurred when the bank’s chairman Ha Van Tham and other executives offered loans without securing collateral and set deposit rates beyond the limits regulated by the central bank for major customers including PetroVietnam units between 2010 and 2014.

Vietsovpetro is believed to have made VND24 billion ($1 million) from the excessive deposit rates, while Binh Son Refinery cashed in more than VND19 billion ($836,000) and PVEP more than VND76 billion ($3.3 million).

Nguyen Xuan Son, PetroVietnam’s former chairman, is already facing the death penalty for abusing his position to embezzle around $11 million from the bank, where he served as CEO between 2008 and 2010.

Ninh Van Quynh, deputy CEO of the fuel giant, is also facing years behind bars for embezzling nearly $1 million from the bank when he was the group’s chief accountant.

Quynh was arrested on August 31 for mismanagement linked to investment losses at OceanBank. PetroVietnam previously held a stake in the bank, but that was completely written off when the central bank took it over in 2015.

The OceanBank trial started on August 28 and is scheduled to take 20 days. 

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