In a scandal that reaches deep inside Vietnam’s corruption-riddled financial system, an ex-banker was sentenced to death on Friday for his role in a massive fraud case involving millions of dollars of illegal loans. Former Ocean Bank general director Nguyen Xuan Son, who later became chairman of the powerful state oil firm PetroVietnam, was sentenced to death for embezzlement, abuse of power and economic mismanagement.
A co-conspirator also received life in prison in a dramatic capping off a month-long trial involving 51 bankers and businessmen — part of an anti-corruption drive that critics say is also sweeping up political enemies of Vietnam’s communist leaders.
The bank’s ex-chairman Ha Van Tham, once one of Vietnam’s richest men, was jailed for life on the same charges, as well as violating lending rules. He was convicted of illegally approving a $23 million loan in 2012.
Also mentioned in the verdict was PetroVietnam’s acquisition of a $35-million stake in the bank. It was later written off when the central bank bought Ocean Bank for $0 in 2015.
Both men left the courthouse stone-faced after the verdict.
“Tham and Son’s behaviour is very serious, infringing on the management of state (assets) and causing public grievances, which requires strict punishment,” said judge Truong Viet Toan.