Vietnam adjourns trial of massive financial scam

By Ha An, Thanh Nien News

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Nguyen Duc Kien, a co-founder and former deputy chairman of Asia Commercial Bank, stands trial for fraud and other charges on April 16, 2014. Photo courtesy of Tuoi Tre
A Hanoi court suspended the trial of nine former executives from Asia Commercial Bank (ACB) and an associated company, on Wednesday afternoon, due to the absence of a defendant.
The trial started in the morning, but in the afternoon, after a brief conference between the judge and jury, the trial was adjourned.
The decision was made at the request of 75-year-old Tran Xuan Gia who was being treated at a local hospital for high blood pressure. Gia, former Minister of Planning and Investment, was the Chairman of ACB between 2008 and September 2012.
They did not announce exactly when the trial would resume.
The trial was previously scheduled to end on April 29.
Twenty attorneys have been assigned to defend the nine defendants.
ACB Co-Founder and Former Deputy Chairman Nguyen Duc Kien, 50, faces charges of “engaging in illegal business activities,” “intentionally violating state regulations on economic management,” 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 stand accused of conducting 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 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.
Kien 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 earned 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.
The HCMC People’s Court sentenced Nhu to life for cheating local banks, companies and individuals out of nearly VND4 trillion ($189.3 million) on January 27.
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.

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