Former chairman of top Vietnam bank arrested as corruption crackdown widens

By Ba Do, Quoc Thang   November 29, 2018 | 04:52 am PT
Former chairman of top Vietnam bank arrested as corruption crackdown widens
Tran Bac Ha, former chairman of BIDV. Photo courtesy of BIDV
Tran Bac Ha, former chairman of Vietnam's second largest listed bank, has been arrested for allegedly violating banking regulations.

The Ministry of Public Security is investigating Ha, former chairman of Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV), with violating banking regulations, on Thursday.

Three other senior officials - Tran Luc Lang, former deputy general director at BIDV, Kieu Dinh Hoa, former director of BIDV branch in Ha Tinh Province in north central Vietnam and Le Thi Van Anh, former head of the customer service department at the branch, also face the same carges. Lang and Hoa are also in custody.

Ha was investigated for his responsibility in "very serious" violations committed at state-owned BIDV, Vietnam's second largest listed bank.

In its report in June, the Central Inspection Committee, the top watchdog of Vietnam's Communist Party, concluded that Ha had violated the democratic centralism principle and working regulations, was guilty of mismanagement, as well as violations of the duties and responsibilities of his position.

Ha also violated credit procedures and regulations in approving a number of loans, investments and debt management decisions. In particular, he enabled 12 companies owned by Pham Cong Danh, former chairman of VNCB, to borrow VND4.7 trillion ($206 million) from BIDV.

While BIDV eventually managed to retrieve this money, the loans had helped Danh steal over VND9 trillion from VNCB. At a trial in 2016, Danh was sentenced to 30 years in prison, the maximum jail term allowed by Vietnam's Penal Code.

In addition to holding Ha responsible, inspectors found that the standing committee of BIDV's Party unit for the 2010-2015 and 2015-2020 terms had also violated the democratic centralism principle, showed lack of responsibility, poor leadership and lack of inspection and supervision.

These violations in turn enabled multiple systematic violations to occur at BIDV, causing very serious consequences and resulting in many staff members being criminally prosecuted, negatively affecting the lives of all BIDV employees, the inspectors said.

Ha was expelled from the Party in June.

Ha, 61, worked at BIDV for 35 years before retiring in September 2016.

During the trial that opened in January regarding violations committed by Danh and Tram Be, a former deputy chairman of Sacombank who also let Danh borrow money from his bank, Ha was summoned as a witness and a person with related interests and obligations.

However Ha did not attend the trial, and his lawyer said he was being treated for cancer in Singapore.

The trial was eventually postponed due to a lack of evidence or a strong enough argument to press charges against Danh, Be and 44 other bankers standing trial.

When the trial resumed in July, Ha was summoned again, along with 234 other people. He did not show up again, as he was reportedly still in Singapore for treatment.

A source told VnExpress that after a surgery in Singapore early this year, Ha had returned to Vietnam and then moved to Laos. Details of Ha's arrest, including the location, are not yet available.

Danh was sentenced to 20 years in jail while Be received four years in the July trial.

Vietnam has over recent years arrested and tried several bankers over financial irregularities as it seeks to restructure a banking system still reeling from nonperforming loans, mismanagement and under-regulated lending.

The BIDV arrests come amid a corruption crackdown that has ensnared hundreds of public officials and businesspeople.

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