Vietnam arrests oil refinery officials as investigation into banking graft case widens

By Viet Ba   May 11, 2018 | 09:54 am GMT+7

Officials from a PetroVietnam subsidiary allegedly accepted $840,000 in excessive interest payments from OceanBank.

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

Nguyen Hoai Giang, 50, chairman of Binh Son Refining and Petrochemical Co. (BSR), and the company's chief accountant Pham Xuan Quang, 38, are facing charges of abuse of power to appropriate property, according to the Ministry of Public Security.

Nguyen Hoai Giang (L) and Pham Xuan Quang (R) of BSR were arrested by local police on Thursday for illegal deposit interest payments from OceanBank. Photo by VnExpress.

Nguyen Hoai Giang (L) and Pham Xuan Quang (R) were arrested by police on Thursday for accepting illegal deposit interest payments from OceanBank. Photo by VnExpress

BSR is a subsidiary of the state-owned oil giant PetroVietnam and the operator of Vietnam's first oil refinery Dung Quat.

Their arrests are part of the second phase of the investigation into banking violations at OceanBank. Last month, the investigation also netted BSR's deputy general director, Vu Manh Tung, 44.

In addition to the refining subsidiary, Vietsovpetro (VSP), a joint venture between PetroVietnam and Russia's Zarubezhneft, and PetroVietnam Exploration Production Corporation (PVEP) are also under investigation.

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, with BSR receiving over VND19 billion ($840,000).

OceanBank then colluded with BSR, VSP 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 week 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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