Vietnam to resume high-profile trial of private bankers

Thanh Nien News

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Nguyen Duc Kien, ACB co-founder and former Deputy Chairman, in a trial on April 16. Photo courtesy of Vietnam News Agency
A Hanoi court will re-open the high-profile trial of nine former executives from Asia Commercial Bank (ACB) and an associated company Tuesday.
The trial was adjourned on April 16 after a half-day of hearings after one of the defendants – 75-year-old Tran Xuan Gia  – filed a motion for a continuance with the court.
Gia, who was being treated at a local hospital for high blood pressure, asked to be absent from the proceedings due to his health problems. The former Minister of Planning and Investment served as chairman of ACB between 2008 and September 2012.
The resumed trial is scheduled to last until June 5.
ACB's co-founder and former vice chairman Nguyen Duc Kien, 50, faces charges of “engaging in illegal business activities,” “intentionally violating state regulations on economic management,” in addition to fraud, and tax evasion.
The fraud charge alone could carry a life sentence.
Former ACB CEO Ly Xuan Hai, former chairman Gia, former deputy chairmen Trinh Kim Quang, Le Vu Ky, and Pham Trung Cang, and former board member Huynh Quang Tuan have been charged with “intentionally violating state regulations on economic management.”
Tran Ngoc Thanh, director of ACB Hanoi Investment Joint Stock Company (ACBI), and Nguyen Thi Hai Yen, ACBI’s chief accountant, have also been charged with fraud.
ACBI is one of six companies founded by Kien which allegedly conducted financial business without proper licenses, according to prosecutors.
According to the indictment, Kien established ACB's co-founders’ board in 2007 and appointed himself deputy chairman without approval from the State Bank of Vietnam.
In this capacity, Kien stands accused of illicitly representing the interests of shareholders with a 9 percent (or higher) stake in the bank and manipulating ACB's management according to their wishes.
Investigators say he set up six other companies to conduct illegal business activities, including gold trading.
Kien served as chairman of four of the companies. He and his co-defendants further stand accused of illegally approving a deposit of nearly VND719 billion (US$34 million) in ACB funds at Vietinbank's Ho Chi Minh City and Nha Be branches between June and November 2011.
The deposit matured at an interest rate of 14 percent annually plus an additional 3.7-13 percent, the investigators said.
In Vietnam, banks are prohibited from depositing money in other banks to accrue interest; additionally, the central bank had set a 14 percent interest rate cap during the period in question.
The ACB funds deposited at Vietinbank were later stolen by Huynh Thi Huyen Nhu, former chief of Vietinbank's Dien Bien Phu branch in Ho Chi Minh City.
In January, the HCMC People’s Court sentenced Nhu to life for cheating local banks, companies and individuals out of nearly VND4 trillion ($189.3 million).
According to prosecutors Kien and his accomplices lost around VND1.7 trillion ($80 million) worth of funds belonging to ACB and other banks and companies.
Kien, listed as one of Vietnam’s 100 richest men in 2010, was arrested in August 2012.
In the hearing on April 16, Kien maintained that he was innocent.

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