More bankers arrested in Vietnam over loans given to bankrupt seafood exporter

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  Phuong Nam Seafood SJC in the Mekong Delta Province of Soc Trang was allowed to take huge loans from seven banks without adequate mortgaged assets / PHOTO COURTESY OF VNECONOMY

Nine more people - leaders and employees of several banks - have been arrested in the Mekong Delta for alleged involvement in loan scams by a big seafood exporter that went bankrupt with debts of VND1.6 trillion (US$75.7 million) in 2011.

Two months ago, eight bank leaders and employees were also taken into custody on suspicion of wrongdoing related to loans given to the Phuong Nam Seafood JSC in Soc Trang Province between 2009 and 2011.

Senior lieutenant-colonel Duong Trung Truc with Bac Lieu Province's Police Department told Thanh Nien Wednesday that investigators with the Ministry of Public Security have placed Nguyen Van Son, director of ABBank in Bac Lieu, and his subordinate Vo Van Truong, chief of the bank's customer service section, in custody for four months.

They are being investigated on charges of "violating loan regulations at credit organizations" for allowing Phuong Nam Food Processing Company to borrow VND80 billion (US$3.8 million), although its mortgaged assets had no value, Truc said.

A report on the VnEconomy news website quoted an ABBank  statement as saying Son has been dismissed from his post and suspended from his work at the bank for dereliction of responsibility, causing serious consequences.

The same day, a leader of the State Bank of Vietnam's branch in Soc Trang told Thanh Nien that the investigators have arrested Nguyen Thi Bich Dung, deputy director of Vietcombank in the province.

Dung's subordinate, Lam Quoc Tuan, chief of the bank's customer service section, and three other staff members were also arrested.

At Sacombank's Soc Trang branch, Luu Quoc Cuong, deputy director, and Le Viet Thang, chief of customer service were also arrested.

Another official of the bank has been placed under investigation, but not detained, said the bank official who wished to stay unnamed.

On September 7, the ministry's investigators arrested director and deputy director of the Vietnam Development Bank in Soc Trang, and director and two credit staff members at LienVietPostBank in Hau Giang Province.

Online newspaper VnExpress reported that three staff members at the Vietnam Development Bank were also taken into custody then.

Four others at the Hau Giang bank face similar charges but were not arrested.

Lam Minh Man, chief accountant of Phuong Nam, was arrested on the same day on charges of faking documents to get loans from the banks.

Initial information from the police is that between 2009 and 2011, Phuong Nam signed loan agreements worth trillions of dong with seven creditor banks in the Mekong Delta.

The company, which was once among Vietnam's top 10 seafood exporters, made investments, but ended up losing its creditworthiness.

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In 2012, Lam Ngoc Khuan, Phuong Nam's chairman, moved to the US with his family, leaving behind debts of VND1.6 trillion, more than five times the company's capital.

The creditors later agreed on a plan to restructure the company, and when the plan was started more than three months ago, violations regarding the loans were discovered, police said.

Documents showed that the company had stocks worth more than VND700 billion ($33 million), though they were only worth around VND22 billion.

Police are investigating the case further.  

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