Vietnam convicts 36 bankers for graft

By AFP   September 9, 2016 | 05:12 pm PT
Total 213 years in jail were given to 36 former bank employees.

A Vietnam court convicted 36 former bank employees, including the chairman, for stealing more than $400 million, an official said Friday, the largest sum ever pilfered from Vietnam's scandal-hit banking sector.

The bankers from the joint-stock Vietnam Construction Bank secretly withdrew money from clients' saving accounts, using the cash for loans or depositing it into their own accounts, reports said.

"The defendants were convicted Friday of deliberately breaking laws on economic management and violating bank lending activities," the Ho Chi Minh City court clerk told AFP.

"Former bank chairman Pham Cong Danh was given 30 years in jail. Others were sentenced to between 22 years in jail and three years probation," he added.

The bankers were responsible for losses of more than $400 million, "the greatest loss for the Vietnamese banking sector to date", state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper reported.

Vietnam's economic growth hit 6.7 percent last year, its fastest rate in five years, boosted by strong exports, foreign investment and buoyant domestic consumption.

But soaring public debts, bloated state-owned enterprises and rampant official corruption have made economic progress vulnerable.

The country's banking sector has been rocked by a series of scandals in recent years, with the high-profile arrests of wealthy businessmen and executives over allegations of corruption, embezzlement or incompetence.

Earlier this year, three senior former bankers and six securities officials were arrested over a fraud worth millions of dollars at the partly state-run MHB Bank.

In July last year police arrested the former chairman of state oil giant PetroVietnam over mistakes that allegedly led to the loss of a $38 million investment in Ocean Bank.

The troubled lender had been taken over by the government after being rocked by a major scandal of its own.

Ocean Bank's former chairman, Ha Van Tham, once one of Vietnam's richest businessmen, is now in detention, pending trial for violations of lending regulations, including approving millions of dollars of loans without proper collateral.

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