Vietnam set to charge bank tycoon over $68 million losses

By Mai Chi   October 6, 2016 | 08:55 pm PT
Vietnam set to charge bank tycoon over $68 million losses
Ha Van Tham, chairman of Ocean Bank between 2007 until his arrest in late 2014. Photo by VnExpress
The chairman of private lender Ocean Bank was removed in 2014 after 'serious' lending violations were first uncovered.

The former chairman of Vietnamese private lender Ocean Bank is expected to be charged soon now that the police have completed a two-year investigation into lending violations linked to $68 million of losses at the Hanoi-based bank.

Ha Van Tham, a prominent businessman believed to be one of the richest in the country, "caused serious damage to the private bank and adverse effects to monetary policies," investigators concluded Thursday, proposing that prosecutors indict the 43-year-old man.

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 depositors interest rates higher than allowed by the government, leading to losses of nearly VND990 billion ($44.4 million). Among clients benefiting from this violation were units of of the state-run oil giant PetroVietnam.

Tham was arrested late in 2014. He had served as the bank's chairman since 2007.

The U.S.-educated banker, who was the eighth richest man in 2013 based on stock holdings, has won several national awards for outstanding entrepreneurs.

He is now facing charges for abuse of power, violations of economic government management, and lending violations.

Police have also proposed similar charges for 16 other executives of the bank. The case is now in the hand of prosecutors.

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

The bank’s parent company, Ocean Group, which has interests in real estate, banking, securities, retail, media and hotels, lost half of its value several months after the arrest.

In April last year, the central bank took over Ocean Bank and put major lender VietinBank in management. VietinBank's report early this year said operation at Ocean Bank "started to be profitable again," and its deposits in 2015 increased 17 percent from the previous year.

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