Heads that rolled in Vietnam in 2018

By Staff reporters   December 31, 2018 | 11:31 am GMT+7

Vietnamese courts had a fair share of high profile cases in 2018, involving top officials, bankers, magnates and cops.

A long list of Vietnamese officials and business figures in different fields were taken to court in 2018 as Vietnam widened a corruption crackdown spearheaded by Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong since last year.

Oil and gas

Former political star Dinh La Thang was sentenced to 13 years in jail for economic management violations in January.

Dinh La Thang at a court in Hanoi on May 5, 2018. Photo by Vietnam News Agency.

Dinh La Thang at a court in Hanoi on May 5, 2018. Photo by Vietnam News Agency.

Thang, 58, served as board chairman of oil giant PetroVietnam between 2006 and 2011, before his career took off as Minister of Transport and then Party leader of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s biggest city.

The indictment said he directly appointed Trinh Xuan Thanh as general director of PetroVietnam Construction Corporation (PVC) in December 2007, before making various promotion, funding and recruitment decisions to boost Thanh’s power and facilitate the company’s operations.

He has been found guilty of being responsible for Thanh’s actions that led to losses worth more than VND119 billion ($5.24 million) at one thermal power plant and embezzlement of VND4 billion ($176,000) at another under PVC.

Thanh, 51, Vietnam’s notorious runaway bigwig, was sentenced to life imprisonment after being found guilty of embezzlement and deliberately acting against State regulations on economic management, causing serious consequences.

[CaTrinh Xuan Thanh at a court in Hanoi in January. Photo by the Vietnam News Agency

Trinh Xuan Thanh at a court in Hanoi in January. Photo by the Vietnam News Agency

Then, in February, Thanh was sentenced to life in prison for the second time for embezzlement at a subsidiary of the country's top energy firm PetroVietnam.

He was found guilty of causing million-dollar losses at PVC’s real estate subsidiary PVP Land.

The indictment said Thanh had colluded with seven people including other former oil executives to falsely devalue PVP Land shares and embezzle VND49 billion (more than $2 million) from a stake sale in 2010.

Thanh alone pocketed VND14 billion ($616,500), the indictment said.

Later in June, Thang and six other former PetroVietnam officials were found guilty of illegally plowing ahead with a 20 percent stake purchase in Ocean Bank in 2008 despite being aware of its "poor capacity". The stake, worth VND800 billion ($35 million), was then completely written off when the central bank took over OceanBank in 2015.

For that, he got another sentence of 18 years in jail. Under Vietnam’s Penal Code, a person who receives multiple sentences will serve a maximum of 30 years in jail.

Top cops, tycoons

At a closed trial on July 30, Phan Van Anh Vu, 43, a real estate tycoon in Da Nang, was sentenced to 9 years in prison, while Phan Huu Tuan, 63, former lieutenant general and former deputy general director of the General Intelligence Department under the Ministry of Public Security received a 7-year sentence. Nguyen Huu Bach, 55, a former defense ministry official got 6 years in prison.

Phan Van Anh Vu at a court in Hanoi in July. Photo by Vietnam News Agency

Phan Van Anh Vu stands trial in Hanoi in July. Photo by Vietnam News Agency

They were charged with disclosing state secrets, and as such, details of the crimes committed by Vu and other defendants were not revealed.

Prior to his downfall, Vu was one of the biggest property investors in Da Nang. He was the chairman of three major property companies and a shareholder in a number of other projects in the central city.

"Little Baldy" case

Former colonel Dinh Ngoc He was sentenced to 12 years in jail on July 31.

"Little Baldy," as the former colonel was known, was convicted of "abusing power in the performance of official duties" and "using fake documents."

He was also banned from taking any government position for four years after serving his jail term.

Former colonel Dinh Ngoc He, listens during the verdict session of his trial at a military court in Hanoi, Vietnam July 31, 2018. Photo by Vietnam News Agency.

Former colonel Dinh Ngoc He, listens during the verdict session of his trial at a military court in Hanoi, Vietnam July 31, 2018. Photo by Vietnam News Agency.

The former colonel was the first senior military official put in jail in a nationwide corruption crackdown that has intensified over the last three years.

He was found to have abused his position as chairman of the defense ministry's Thai Son Joint Stock Company and his military status to get contracts in key national projects, the indictment said.

He also abused his position to obtain military license plates for his company cars and submitted fake university test certificates to the Party in a bid to increase his salary, it said.

His four accomplices, all former executives at Thai Son, received up to five years in prison for neglect and abuse of power.

Online gambling 

A court on November 30 sentenced Phan Van Vinh, former director of the General Police Department under the Ministry of Public Security and Nguyen Thanh Hoa, former director of the ministry’s Department for High-Tech Crime Prevention, to nine and 10 years in jail respectively.

Phan Van Vinh (R) and Nguyen Thanh Hoa is at a court in Phu Tho Province in northern Vietnam in November. Photos by VnExpress/Giang Huy

Phan Van Vinh (L) and Nguyen Thanh Hoa is at a court in Phu Tho Province in northern Vietnam in November. Photos by VnExpress/Giang Huy

They were found guilty of "abusing power or position in the performance of official duties."

Investigations found Vinh had helped Nguyen Thanh Hoa and Nguyen Van Duong, chairman of high-tech security development company CNC under the ministry, to set up a gambling ring.

The illegal ring was found to have generated a total income of over VND9.8 trillion ($426 million) and a profit of VND4.7 trillion.

The trial that opened on November 12 also dealt with 90 other defendants who were charged with organizing gambling, money laundering, illegal trading of invoices, and using the internet to appropriate assets. Of those, 17 were fined VND40 million each, 22 got probation and the rest received up to three years in jail.

Bankers jailed

On August 6, 46 banking executives and staff received sentences in a fraud case involving millions of dollars.

Pham Cong Danh, 53, former chairman of Vietnam Construction Bank (VNCB), which is now the Construction Bank, and Tram Be, 58, former deputy chairman of Sacombank were found guilty of "deliberately violating state regulations on economic management, causing serious consequences." Danh was sentenced to 20 years in jail while Be got four years.

Pham Cong Danh (L) and Tram Be at a court in Ho Chi Minh City in August . Photos by VnExpress/Thanh Nguyen

Pham Cong Danh (L) and Tram Be at a court in Ho Chi Minh City in August . Photos by VnExpress/Thanh Nguyen

Danh and other staff of VNCB secretly withdrew money from clients' saving accounts and used the cash to secure loans from other banks, pay off debts or deposit into their own accounts.

Of the money stolen from VNCB, Danh used VND6.1 trillion ($263 million) to secure loans from Sacombank, BIDV and TPBank for his ghost companies.

When these companies were unable to repay the loans, the three banks seized the deposits they'd held as collateral, inflicting losses on VNCB.

Be was charged with abusing his position to ignore banking regulations in order to help Danh borrow VND1.8 trillion ($77 million) from Sacombank. Other defendants received a range of punishments including two-year suspended sentences and 10 years imprisonment.

The central bank case

Dang Thanh Binh, 64, a former central bank deputy governor was sentenced to three years in jail for "negligence of responsibility, causing serious consequences" on July 2.

Dang Thanh Binh at a court in Ho Chi Minh City in June. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nguyen

Dang Thanh Binh at a court in Ho Chi Minh City in June. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nguyen

Binh’s four accomplices – two former bankers at major lender Vietcombank, a former supervisor and a former inspector at the state bank – received between one and two and half years in jail.

Binh served as deputy governor of the State Bank of Vietnam from 2005 until he retired in August 2014. He was held accountable for massive losses suffered by the Vietnam Construction Bank (VNCB) in the biggest ever fraud case involving the country's banking sector.

The indictment noted that Binh had been assigned by the central bank to restructure several weak banks, including VNCB.

Dong A Bank case

Former CEO of DongA Bank Tran Phuong Binh, fallen Da Nang real estate tycoon Phan Van Anh Vu and 24 others got various prison terms on December 20 in a massive graft case that is said to cause losses of more than $154 million for the bank.

Binh, 59, will spend the rest of his life behind bars for "deliberately violating state regulations on economic management, causing serious consequences" and "abusing position and power to appropriate assets," the court ruled.

Tran Phuong Binh at a trial in HCMC in December. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa

Tran Phuong Binh at a trial in HCMC in December. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa

He was found mainly responsible for losses of nearly VND3.5 trillion ($153.8 million) at the partly state-owned bank, incurred as the bank paid interest beyond regulated rates to customers, committed violations in foreign currency and gold trading, and got involved in a share-buying schemes.

Vu, 43, received 17 years for "abuse of power to appropriate property."

In 2013, DongA planned to raise its charter capital from VND5 trillion ($220 million) to VND6 trillion despite having several financial problems. To achieve this goal, Binh convinced Vu to buy 60 million shares in the bank for VND600 billion.

To raise cash for the deal, Vu mortgaged a plot of land with the bank to secure a VND400 billion loan. Binh then had his subordinates falsify paperwork for the remaining VND200 billion ($8.8 million).

However, the plan to raise the bank’s capital fell through, so Binh instructed his staff to transfer VND600 billion plus interest to Vu's company, although the latter had only paid VND400 billion to the bank in the original share purchase deal.

Investigators concluded that Vu had misappropriated VND200 billion from the bank. He has admitted to this, but claimed he had only been following Binh's instructions. He also repaid the money to minimize the damage incurred by the bank. The rest of the money is no longer retrievable, investigators said.

 
 
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