Vietnam's prominent businesspersons named in Panama Papers: What they've got to say

By VnExpress   May 10, 2016 | 02:29 pm GMT+7
Vietnam's prominent businesspersons named in Panama Papers: What they've got to say
From left to right: Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, CEO of Vietjet Air; Nguyen Duy Hung, Chairman of SSI; Dam Bich Thuy, former CEO of ANZ Vietnam.

Some entrepreneurs in Vietnam named in Panama Papers, who work in financial, real estate, securities and consultancy sectors, have confirmed their names but claim their outward investments are legal.

189 companies and individuals in Vietnam are linked to the Panama Papers, according to the leaked files released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), along with Sudetendeutsche Zeitung today. VnExpress interviewed several well-known Vietnamese entrepreneurs on this list.

Consultancy

Adam McCarty, chief economist at Mekong Economics, a consultancy which has worked on development projects with the World Bank and UN organizations in Vietnam and South East Asia, is listed in the Panama Papers as shareholder of Mekong Economics Ltd. in the British Virgin Islands. 

McCarty told VnExpress International via e-mail: "I established a BVI-registered [British Virgin Island] firm in 2004 through Hong Kong accountants and with an HSBC account. I wanted an independent overseas firm to bid for and win and be paid for projects in countries other than Vietnam (e.g. Cambodia). The Vietnam connection is just because I live in Hanoi. We didn't win many such projects, however, and the BVI firm was closed in 2011. Sorry that it is not more exciting news!

Real estate

Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, CEO and a major stakeholder of Vietjet Air, is named in the Papers with a link to Sovico Holdings, the parent company of VietJet Air. The Arianna Hotels and Resorts International Limited, where Thao has shares, is registered in the British Virgin Islands. According to the Panama Papers, Arianna Hotels and Resorts International Limited is also the former stakeholder of the Furama Resort in Vietnam’s Da Nang central city, which Sovico acquired in 2005.

Thao told VnExpress her name is shown on the list because Sovico has bought Furama Resort.

A Sovico representative said: “We are the new investor which has replaced previous ones. Because the Panama's law firm Mossack Fonseca provided consulting services to Furama Resort, it is normal that the name of Sovico is shown on the list as we had acquired the resort. Similarly, our leaders such as Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao and Nguyen Thanh Hung also appear on the list.”

Hung, chairman of Sovico Holdings, is Thao’s husband.

Thao said she was not surprised by the list because apart from Furama Resort, there are other foreign hotels and foreigners in Vietnam. She said foreign investors mostly have the same model of investment and selection of management.

Thao is also vice chairwoman of the Board of Directors of HD Bank. Vietjet Air is a leading budget airline in Vietnam with sales value in 2015 at VND11.748 trillion ($520 million), up 50 percent year on year. 

Banking and finance 

Dam Bich Thuy, former CEO of ANZ Vietnam, is on the list. She used to be director of the ANZ/V-Trac International Leasing Company, which was registered in the British Virgin Islands. “Vtrac has been licensed by the State Bank of Vietnam. I was in charge of the company when I was CEO of ANZ Vietnam. Therefore, my name appears on the list,” Thuy told VnExpress.

According to Thuy, the Panama Papers have listed all entities established in the places which are considered "tax havens". She said all firms opened in the British Virgin Islands and who owns them are saved in their archives. Therefore, having a name on the list does not mean that an individual or company does something illegal.

Securities

Nguyen Duy Hung, chairman of Saigon Securities Company (SSI), one of Vietnam’s largest brokerage firms with nearly $160 million in charter capital, is on the list as both shareholder and beneficiary of NDH Co. Ltd registered in the British Virgin Islands. 

Hung told VnExpress that it is normal for any company which invests in foreign markets to be listed in the papers. The fact that his name appears in the papers does not mean he is related to illegal activities like tax evasion or money laundering. The chairman added that he had been licensed by Vietnamese authorities to open firms in foreign markets.

The SSI's representative also stated that there is no country in the world prohibiting its citizens from running a company overseas to manage their assets. He said that Vietnam, like other countries, allows citizens to use an offshore company as a legal entity for their business activities.

VnExpress International is in the process of verifying other well-known figures in Vietnam present in the Panama Papers. We will provide an update on Panama Papers in Vietnam as new information comes in. Stay tuned. 

 
 
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