|Former Chairman of the Board of Directors of Ocean Bank Hà Văn Thắm (middle) at the court. He will be tried for involvement in one of the biggest economic crime cases in Việt Nam. – VNA/VNS Phạm Kiên
HÀ NỘI – The Hà Nội People’s Court on Monday opened legal proceedings in one of the biggest economic crime cases in Việt Nam at Ocean Bank, which involves 48 former leaders and employees of the bank.
Former Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Ocean Commercial Joint Stock Bank (Ocean Bank) Hà Văn Thắm and his accomplices will be tried on charges which include breaching loan regulations of credit institutions, abusing positions and power while being on duty and intentionally acting against State laws on economic management, causing serious consequences.
Forty-seven of the total 48 defendants were present at the hearing, including former director general Nguyễn Xuân Sơn and Nguyễn Thị Minh Thu, and former deputy director general Nguyễn Văn Hoàn and Lê Thị Thu Thủy, and former directors of Ocean Bank branches and transaction offices.
The jury summoned nearly 600 persons to give evidence, while more than 50 lawyers attended in defence of the accused.
According to the People’s Procuracy’s indictment, Ocean Bank committed extremely serious violations in lending, mobilising deposits, and paying customers higher interest rates than the ceiling regulated by the central bank, causing heavy losses for the bank and its shareholders, and hindering the implementation of State monetary policy.
The indictment stated that while holding the highest position at Ocean Bank, Thắm personally ordered the Ocean Bank Board of Directors to approve a loan to Phạm Công Danh, former Managing Board Chairman of the Construction Bank. The loan was approved without meeting loan conditions and without collateral assets to secure the loan, causing losses of nearly VNĐ350 billion (US$15.5 million).
Danh has previously been convicted of another banking crime. He was sentenced to 30 years behind bars last month for his violations which caused losses of VNĐ9 trillion for the Construction Bank.
According to the indictment, Nguyễn Xuân Sơn, former general director of Ocean Bank, abused his position to work hands with Thắm to charge customers additional fees via one of Thắm’s shell companies - the BSC Co, JSC, which was initially registered to operate in real estate. This illegal fee caused losses of nearly VNĐ69 billion for Ocean Bank and its customers.
In late 2010, Sơn was appointed as deputy general director of the Vietnam Oil and Gas Group (PVN) and he recommended Nguyễn Minh Thu, who acted as Ocean Bank deputy general director at that time, to be the bank’s general director. Sơn asked Thắm to let Thu oversee capital mobilisation for the firm.
Thu directed the bank’s operation departments to illegally pay interest rates outside of the mobilising deposit contracts for customers, causing losses of VNĐ1.576 trillion ($70 million) for the bank.
The People’s Procuracy said that Thắm issued the policy to pay interest rates outside of the mobilising deposit contract across Ocean Bank system, directly asked Thu (who was then the bank’s director general) to decide customer care services and pay interest rates outside of the mobilising deposit contracts; and direct the bank’s staff and employees to pay customers interest rates outside of mobilising deposit contracts, breaching State Bank of Việt Nam regulations on capital mobilisation interest rate cap, causing great losses for Ocean Bank.
The trial is expected to last 20 days.
The 45-year-old Thắm was arrested in October 2014.
Under Thắm’s direction, Ocean Bank’s bad debts climbed to nearly VNĐ15 trillion ($666 million), with pre-tax losses reaching more than VNĐ10 trillion as of March 2014.
The Ocean Bank case is one of the six biggest economic crimes which the Central Steering Anti-Corruption Committee was asked to bring to trial by the first quarter of 2017.
The State Bank nationalised Ocean Bank in May last year. — VNS