Bankers, customs officers jailed for $111mln scam at top lender Agribank

By Ha An, Thanh Nien News

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18 people, including bankers and customs officers, stand trial in Hanoi on January 7, 2016 for helping foreigners swindle over $111 million from state-run lender Agribank between 2008 and 2012. Photo: Nam Anh 18 people, including bankers and customs officers, stand trial in Hanoi on January 7, 2016 for helping foreigners swindle over $111 million from state-run lender Agribank between 2008 and 2012. Photo: Nam Anh

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A court in Hanoi has sentenced 18 people, including former managers at state-run Agribank and customs officers, to between two and 30 years in prison for allowing foreigners to swindle around VND2.53 trillion (US$111.18 million).
All of them were convicted of "power abuse," "dereliction of duty" and "violations of regulations on lending activities," for helping foreign-invested garment company Lifepro Vietnam take out loans from an Agribank office in southern Hanoi and its headquarters without proper collateral.
The company's founders -- one Chinese, three Canadians, and one Italian -- fled the country when the case was busted in 2012 and are now wanted globally.
The foreigners established garment company Enzo Vietnam in 2007, and were licensed to develop a VND530-billion ($23.2 million) factory in the northern province of Ninh Binh, according to the indictment. They started borrowing from Agribank in 2008.
In 2011, they changed the company's name into Lifepro Vietnam, which continued to borrow from the bank, using faked and invalid contracts to secure loans, prosecutors said.
Pham Thi Bich Luong, 46, who was the director of the bank's office, approved the loans without assessing the applications properly.
As of September 2012, the bank's office disbursed a total of VND2.53 trillion to the company.
More than 67 percent of the amount came from the bank's headquarters, which required the approval of its then CEO Pham Thanh Tan, according to the indictment.
Luong, who received VND3 billion ($131,000) in kickbacks from the company and divided the money among those involved in approving and disbursing the loans, was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Her deputy Chu Thi Kim Hien, 58, received a similar sentence, while six staff members were jailed for 2-16 years.
Tan received 22 years, while another four managers of the bank's headquarters, including deputy CEO Kieu Trong Tuyen and board member Hoang Anh Tuan, were punished with jail terms between 4-6 years.
Four customs officers in Hanoi were found guilty of clearing illegal imports by the company and providing trade documents to support its loan applications. They received a 30-month jail term each.
Le Minh Hieu, 41, chairman of a subsidiary of Lifepro Vietnam, was the sole member of the company to stand trial and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

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