Breach of trust?

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Vietnam's prime minister on Wednesday ordered the Ministry of Public Security to investigate all possible violations of banking laws and throw the book at offenders to ensure the banking system's transparency and safety .

His instructions came in the wake of the recent arrest of Nguyen Duc Kien, a high-profile businessman and investor who is allegedly a major shareholder in several local banks, for alleged "economic violations."

Kien is said to be a co-founder of ACB, one of Vietnam's largest banks, and own stakes in it and other banks like Kien Long Commercial Joint Stock Bank (Kien Long Bank) and the Vietnam Export-Import Commercial Joint Stock Bank (Eximbank). But all the banks deny he has any stakes in them.

Kien, 48, was arrested Monday at his house in Hanoi. Police also searched the house and seized several documents.

Dung issued the instructions at a meeting of the Central Steering Committee for Anti-corruption, of which he is the head.

The police also summoned Ly Xuan Hai, CEO of Asia Commercial Bank (ACB), for questioning.

PetroTimes, a news website belonging to the Vietnam Oil and Gas Group, reported that the Supreme People's Procurary - the prosecutor's office - has allowed the police to detain Hai for four months for investigation into his intentional acts of "violating state regulations on economic management, causing serious consequences."

But at this point things get murky. Voice of Vietnam (VOV) website said Thursday that Nguyen Thanh Toai, ACB's deputy general director, denied the "rumors" that Hai has been arrested.

Some websites claim that Hai has been arrested but they are small ones, some of them just blogs, it quoted him as saying.

All major news outlets have either deleted mention of Hai's arrest or not published it at all, he said.

The bank is operating normally, he said. It has meanwhile named Do Minh Toan, another deputy general director, as a temporary replacement for Hai.

On Wednesday customers withdrew VND5 trillion (over US$240 million) from ACB.

Listed as one of Vietnam's 100 richest men in 2010, he is also vice chairman of the Vietnam Professional Football Joint Stock Company, which runs the V-League.

At the Central Steering Committee for Anti-corruption session Wednesday, Dung also urged relevant agencies to speed up resolution of corruption cases, especially complicated and major ones.

Weaknesses remain in the fight against corruption, he said, citing a failure to lay due emphasis on the task and pass amendments to anti-corruption laws.

He ordered the committee to focus on strengthening dissemination of information on anti-corruption, the legal system, policies and mechanisms, especially pertaining to land administration, and management of state-owned enterprises, and spelling out state agencies' accountability.

The government website reports that in the first half of this year more than 6,000 investigations were carried out and competent agencies recommended seizing VND6.4 trillion ($304.8 million) in cash and 1,291 hectares of land and handing out fines of VND258 billion ($12.3 million).

In the first seven months of this year, 163 corruption cases involving 275 accused came to trial.

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