Vietnam bank tycoon, former executives face trial over $66 mln losses

By Viet Dung   February 27, 2017 | 07:22 pm GMT+7
Vietnam bank tycoon, former executives face trial over $66 mln losses
Ha Van Tham, former chairman of Ocean Bank, is escorted to a trial in Hanoi on Monday. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

The 20-day trial will hear one of the biggest corruption cases in Vietnam, with former bank executives among 48 defendants.

Disgraced chairman of Vietnam's private lender Ocean Bank and its 47 former executives were sent to a trial Monday on accusation of various lending violations linked to losses of VND1.5 trillion ($66 million).

Ha Van Tham, the former chairman, and other defendants have been charged of abuse with power and violations of lending regulations and state regulations on economic management.

A police report released last October said Tham had “caused serious damage to the private bank and adverse effects to monetary policies.”

He was found to have approved a VND500 billion ($23.5 million) loan to a real estate firm without properly securing it with collateral in 2012. The Ho Chi Minh City-based company later defaulted on the loan.

Police said Tham also offered deposit rates above government rules, leading to losses of nearly VND990 billion. 

The U.S.-educated banker, who was the eighth richest man in 2013 based on stock holdings, had won several national awards for outstanding entrepreneurship. He was arrested in October 2014.

Ocean Bank was founded in 1993 with a 20 percent stake from the conglomerate Ocean Group, which has also invested in hospitality, securities, media and retail.

In April 2015, the central bank took over Ocean Bank and put major lender VietinBank in management. The bank’s new chairman had recently said Ocean Bank's operation has been “profitable” in the past two years, based on local media reports.

Its deposits in 2015 increased 17 percent from the previous year, based on a VietinBank report.

The OceanBank is one of six serious corruption and mismanagement cases that Vietnam’s government has decided to bring to trial by the end of this March.

Last week a Hanoi court sentenced two former executives of state-owned shipping giant Vinashinlines to death and another to life imprisonment for misappropriating nearly $12 million from the company.

Other cases involve violations at Agribank, Vietinbank, abuse of power at the Vietnam Waterway Construction Corporation under the Ministry of Transport, and mismanagement at a public development fund in the northern province of Bac Ninh.

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