Vietnam upholds 30-year sentence for banking, soccer tycoon

By Thai Son, Thanh Nien News

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Nguyen Duc Kien, a 50-year-old founder of Asia Commercial Bank and ex-chairman of Hanoi's professional soccer club, at an appeals court in Hanoi on December 15, 2014. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre Nguyen Duc Kien, a 50-year-old founder of Asia Commercial Bank and ex-chairman of Hanoi's professional soccer club, at an appeals court in Hanoi on December 15, 2014. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre

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A court of appeals in Hanoi on Monday upheld a 30-year sentence against one of the country’s richest men for his key role in a series of financial scams that caused multi-million dollar losses through illegal cross-bank deposits and investments.
Following a ten-day hearing in Hanoi, the Supreme People’s Court rejected Nguyen Duc Kien’s appeal for innocence, maintaining that he was guilty of fraud, tax evasion, illegal trading, and “deliberately violating state regulations on economic management, causing serious consequences”
Kien, a 50-year-old founder of Asia Commercial Bank and ex-chairman of Hanoi's professional soccer club, was also handed a fine of VND75.1 billion (US$3.5 million).
Of five other defendants -- all top bankers at ACB -- who appealed along with Kien, only one had his sentence reduced by one year.  Le Vu Ky, 58, a former vice-chairman of the ACB board, got four years Monday after the court of first instance handed down the five-year sentence to him.
The court upheld the eight-year sentence against former CEO Ly Xuan Hai, the four-year sentence against former deputy chairman Trinh Kim Quang, the three-year sentence against former deputy chairman Pham Trung Cang, and the two-year sentence against former board member Huynh Quang Tuan.
All of them were convicted of “deliberately violating state regulations on economic management.”
According to the indictment, Kien and those former ACB executives ordered their staff to make deposits of nearly VND719 billion (US$34 million) at Vietinbank in 2011.
The deposits earned an interest rate of 14 percent annually plus an additional 3.7-13 percent.
Banks in Vietnam 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.
The deposits were then later appropriated by Huynh Thi Huyen Nhu, a Vietinbank executive.
Nhu was sentenced to life in January for cheating local banks, companies and individuals out of nearly VND4 trillion ($188 million). An appeals trial for Nhu also opened Monday.
Kien was also convicted of committing illegal gold and stock trading activities valued at VND21.5 trillion ($1 billion) in 2007-2008.
In addition, he was charged with evading VND25 billion ($1.17 million) in tax through his six companies and defrauding top steel firm Hoa Phat Group of VND264 billion ($12.3 million) through selling 20 million Hoa Phat shares that already had been used as collateral for bank loans.

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