Vietnam tycoon could get 30 years

By Ha An - Hoang Tuan, Thanh Nien News

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ACB co-founder Nguyen Duc Kien, 50, stood a trial in Hanoi for fraud, tax evasion and other charges. Photo credit: VNA ACB co-founder Nguyen Duc Kien, 50, stood a trial in Hanoi for fraud, tax evasion and other charges. Photo credit: VNA


Prosecutors in Hanoi recommended a 30-year sentence on Tuesday for a co-founder of Asia Commercial Bank (ACB) facing four charges, including fraud and tax evasion.
Nguyen Duc Kien, 50, who was once listed as one of the country's 100 richest people, was also charged with “engaging in illegal business,” and “deliberately violating state regulations on economic management.”
On May 20, the Hanoi People's Court began its trial against Kien and five other former ACB executives along with Kien's two subordinates at ACB Hanoi Investment Joint Stock Company (ACBI) -- another of his firms.
The proceedings are scheduled to conclude on June 5.
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 presiding over a group of shareholders with a 9 percent (or higher) stake in ACB and manipulating the bank’s operations to serve their interests.
Kien and his codefendants 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, prosecutors said.
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 in question.
The Vietinbank deposit was later appropriated by Huynh Thi Huyen Nhu, former chief of the bank's Dien Bien Phu branch in Ho Chi Minh City.
Nhu was sentenced to life in January for cheating local banks, companies and individuals out of nearly VND4 trillion ($189.3 million).
Prosecutors said Kien also founded six companies (and chaired four of them) for the purposes of conducting illegal businesses, including gold trading, and evading taxes.
Prosecutors proposed jail terms for the other former executives of ACB for “deliberately violating state regulations on economic management.”
Former ACB CEO Ly Xuan Hai, 49, faces 12-14 years in jail if convicted.
Le Vu Ky, 58, and Trinh Kim Quang, 60, former deputy chairmen of the bank could serve between seven and eight years each, if convicted.
Pham Trung Cang, 60, another former deputy chairman, and Huynh Quang Tuan, 56, a former board member, will each get off with three-year suspended sentences coupled with a five-year probationary period.
Tran Xuan Gia, 75, a former Minister of Planning and Investment who served as the chairman of ACB between 2008 and September 2012, initially stood accused of the same charge.
The court adjourned proceedings against Gia at the beginning of the hearing, citing his poor health.
Gia, who was being treated at a local hospital for high blood pressure, filed a motion for a continuance with the court, leading to the trial’s adjournment on April 16 after a half-day of hearings. 
In the meantime, prosecutors proposed a sentence of between nine and ten years for Tran Ngoc Thanh, 62, director of ACBI. Nguyen Thi Hai Yen, 45, chief accountant of the company, may serve seven to eight years for fraud.

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