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Vietnam arrests four oil officials for violations linked to banking graft case

By Ba Do   June 21, 2018 | 03:42 pm PT
Officials of PetroVietnam were accused of accepting excessive interest payments from OceanBank.

Police in Vietnam arrested two former oil execs and two other oil officials on Thursday for allegedly accepting illegal deposit interest payments from the scandal-hit OceanBank.

Tu Thanh Nghia, 56, former deputy general director of Vietsovpetro (VSP), and Dinh Van Ngoc, 45, former deputy general director of Binh Son Refining and Petrochemical Co. (BSR) are facing charges of abuse of power to appropriate property, according to the Ministry of Public Security.

Additionally, VSP's former chief accountant Vo Quang Huy, 57, and Nguyen Tuan Hung, 47, chief financial officer of PetroVietnam Exploration Production Corporation (PVEP), have also been arrested on similar charges.

From left to right: Tu Thanh Nghia, Dinh Van Ngoc, Vo Quang Huy and Nguyen Tuan Hung.

From left to right: Tu Thanh Nghia, Dinh Van Ngoc, Vo Quang Huy and Nguyen Tuan Hung.

VSP is a joint venture between state-owned oil giant PetroVietnam and Russia's Zarubezhneft, while BSR is a refining subsidiary of PetroVietnam and the operator of Vietnam's first oil refinery Dung Quat, and PVEP is PetroVietnam's exploration subsidiary.

The four arrests are part of the second phase of the investigation into banking violations at OceanBank. Last month, the investigation also netted BSR's chairman Nguyen Hoai Giang, 50, and chief accountant Pham Xuan Quang, 38, while the company's deputy general director Vu Manh Tung, 44, was arrested in April.

According to the investigation, OceanBank paid its major customers over VND1.576 trillion ($69.4 million) in excessive interest payments between 2010 and November 2014 under policies set by former board chairman Ha Van Tham.

OceanBank then colluded with VSP, BSR and PVEP to wipe the payments from their books, investigators said.

At a trial that wrapped up last September, Tham was sentenced to life imprisonment after being held mainly responsible for offering deposit rates above those set by the central bank to various customers, resulting in major losses. He claimed it was part of a strategy to attract funds and keep the business afloat, but his argument was dismissed.

Nguyen Xuan Son, the bank's former general director and former board chairman of PetroVietnam, received the death penalty for appropriating VND246 billion from the bank in excessive interest payments.

An appeal court in Hanoi last month rejected Tham and Son's appeals but said it would ask the Supreme Court to commute their sentences.

The second phase of investigation into OceanBank is among the major cases the Communist Party and the government are "determined" to pursuit and bring to court, according to Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, who is spearheading Vietnam's anti-corruption campaign.

Trong, 74, has described the sweeping campaign as being at an “all-time high,” and has urged authorities to keep up the momentum.

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