Vietnam jails former bankers in graft crackdown

HANOI (Reuters) - A court in Vietnam handed lengthy prison terms on Monday to several former bankers accused of mismanagement, amid a crackdown on corruption in the communist-ruled country.

Former Construction bank chairman Pham Cong Danh (R) is escorted by police as he leaves the court after the verdict session in Hanoi, Vietnam September 29, 2017. REUTERS/Kham

In the early 2010s, Vietnam’s banking system was rocked by a string of mismanagement scandals and under-regulated lending, and is still reeling from nonperforming loans.

Pham Cong Danh, former chairman of Vietnam Construction Bank, privately owned until a central bank takeover, received a 20-year prison sentence, while its former chief executive, Phan Thanh Mai, got 10 years, the Ministry of Public Security said.

They were convicted of “deliberate violation of state regulations on economic management, causing serious consequences” at the end of a two-week trial by a court in Ho Chi Minh City, the ministry said on its official website.

“The violations of Danh and his accomplices caused damage of 6.1 trillion dong to the Vietnam Construction Bank, leaving adverse impacts on the banking system,” the VnExpress online newspaper cited the jury as saying. The figure is equivalent to nearly $262 million.

The court also sentenced Tram Be, former deputy chairman of Saigon Thuong Tin Commercial Joint Stock Bank, to four years in prison on the same charges, police said in the statement.

Terms ranging from two years of probation to 10 years in prison were also handed to 43 accomplices, it added.

Danh, 53, was sentenced in 2016 to 30 years in prison in a separate trial, accused of illegally withdrawing more than $400 million from the bank.

Authorities have since stepped up their graft crackdown, leading to the arrests of dozens of high-profile business figures and officials.

Last month, a former deputy governor of the central bank was jailed for three years, the most senior banking official put on trial in the crackdown.

Dang Thanh Binh, 64, and four accomplices were accused of “lack of responsibility”, leading to losses at Vietnam Construction Bank.

(This story has been refiled to fix day of the week in paragraph one.)

Reporting by Khanh Vu; Editing by Clarence Fernandez