July 2, 2018 / 9:56 AM / 3 months ago

Vietnam jails former central bank official amid graft crackdown

HANOI (Reuters) - A court in Vietnam on Monday jailed a former deputy governor of the central bank for three years, his lawyer said, the most senior banking official put on trial in the Southeast Asian nation amid a crackdown on corruption.

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

In 2012, Dang Thanh Binh, 64, and four accomplices were accused of “lack of responsibility”, leading to losses of up to 15 trillion dong ($654 million) at the privately-owned Vietnam Construction Bank, lawyer Pham Van Dam said.

“The trial has ended and Binh and four other defendants were charged with ‘lack of responsibility, causing serious consequences’,” Dam said, without saying if Binh would appeal.

Binh had failed to fulfill his duties and follow the instructions of the central bank and the prime minister, the official People’s Police newspaper said, citing the indictment.

Vietnam Construction Bank, formerly known as Great Trust Commercial Joint Stock Bank, suffered heavy loses and was forcibly taken over in 2015 by the State Bank of Vietnam, the country’s central bank.

“I regret that I did not fulfill the tasks assigned to me by the state, but I and other leaders at the central bank were innocent in our motives,” the paper quoted Binh as telling the jury at his trial.

The court in Ho Chi Minh City also handed prison terms ranging from one to 2-1/2 years to Binh’s accomplices on Monday, the lawyer said.

The trial came amid a corruption crackdown in which several senior government officials and executives of state-owned enterprises have been arrested and jailed.

Vietnam this year jailed former Politburo member Dinh La Thang for 31 years for financial irregularities at PetroVietnam, formally known as Vietnam Oil and Gas Group.

Thang, 57, who denied any wrongdoing at his trial, was the highest-level politician Vietnam has jailed for decades.

The recent legal cases should not affect Vietnam’s efforts to meet its socioeconomic goals, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said on Monday.

“He who hesitates, who doesn’t work and doesn’t rush to make products and fulfill his duties should be questioned,” Phuc said.

Reporting by Khanh Vu; Editing by James Pearson and Clarence Fernandez

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