Trial resumes in Vietnam's largest banking scandal

By Ky Hoa   July 24, 2018 | 03:12 pm GMT+7
Trial resumes in Vietnam's largest banking scandal
Pham Cong Danh, former chairman of Vietnam Construction Bank (VNCB), which is now Construction Bank, at the court in Ho Chi Minh City on July 24, 2018. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nguyen

A high-profile trial involving senior bankers stealing millions of dollars resumed on Tuesday after it was suspended last February.

Forty-six banking executives and staff are defendants in the trial, which is expected to run through this weekend. They include Tram Be, 58, former deputy chairman of Sacombank, and Pham Cong Danh, 52, former chairman of Vietnam Construction Bank (VNCB), which is now Construction Bank.

They are accused of “deliberately violating state regulations on economic management, causing serious consequences.”

According to the indictment, Danh and other staff of VNCB secretly withdrew money from clients' savings 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, and prosecutors say this must be considered losses suffered by the VNCB.

Tram Be, a former deputy chairman of Sacombank, at the court in Ho Chi Minh City on July 24, 2018. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nguyen

Tram Be, former deputy chairman of Sacombank, at the court in Ho Chi Minh City on July 24, 2018. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nguyen

Prosecutors have proposed a 20-year sentence for Danh. As he is already serving a 30-year sentence (the maximum prison term allowed by Vietnam's Penal Code except for life imprisonment) for stealing over VND9 trillion from VNCB at a trial in September last year, the sentence at this trial would run concurrently.

The proposed sentence for Be is five-six years in prison. Be is charged with abusing his position to ignore banking regulations in order to help Danh borrow VND1.8 trillion from Sacombank.

Of this money, Danh spent VND1.7 trillion on paying debts at another local bank for six companies that he owned, and deposited the rest in a personal account.

Tran Bac Ha, former board chairman of BIDV, was also summoned to the court among 235 people who were witnesses to the case or had related interests and responsibilities. He did not show up as he is reportedly receiving cancer treatment in Singapore.

Ha was expelled from Vietnam's Communist Party last month as the Party's Central Inspection Committee found he had made "very serious" violations when he let Danh borrow VND4.7 trillion ($206 million) from his bank. While BIDV eventually managed to retrieve this money, the loans had helped Danh steal over VND9 trillion from VNCB.

The massive trial was first launched in January and lasted a month before it was put on hold by the judges, citing a lack of evidence or a strong enough argument to impose charges.

 
 
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