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Former PetroVietnam Chairman appeals death penalty

Released at: 19:41, 07/10/2017

Former PetroVietnam Chairman appeals death penalty

Nguyen Xuan Son (white shirt) in the dock. Photo from nld.com.vn)

Appeal claims innocence on embezzlement and abusing power charges.

by Quang Huy

Former Chairman of State fuel giant PetroVietnam, Nguyen Xuan Son, who received the death penalty last week from a court in Hanoi for his role in the multi-million dollar graft case at OceanBank, has appealed against the “unjust verdict”.

On September 29, the court sentenced Son to death for appropriating VND246 billion ($13.6 million) from OceanBank. PetroVietnam had acquired a 20 per cent stake in OceanBank during Son’s time as Chairman of the Board, meaning he had stolen VND49 billion ($2.15 million) in government money, prosecutors said. The 55-year-old was found guilty of embezzlement, abuse of power, and deliberately violating State regulations on economic management.

The court said on October 6 it had received Son’s appeal, in which he claimed he was innocent of embezzlement and charges of abusing his power.

He admitted in the appeal that he had broken lending regulations at credit institutions and accepted the charge of deliberately violating State regulations on economic management. But he said he would like the court to reconsider the case and reduce his sentence.

After the sentence was announced last month, Son called it “an unjust verdict” while his lawyer was quoted as saying that he would appeal. Judges at the one-month trial also sentenced Ha Van Tham, former Chairman of the Board at OceanBank, to life in jail on charges of embezzlement, deliberately violating state regulations on economic management, and breaking regulations on lending activities at credit institutions.

Tham is accused of offering deposit rates above those set by the central bank to various customers, including PetroVietnam, between 2010 and 2014, causing losses of nearly VND1.6 trillion ($70.4 million). Other bankers received up to 22 years in jail.

OceanBank was founded in 1993 with a 20 per cent stake from Ocean Group, which also invests in hospitality, securities, media and retail. It was taken over by the central bank in April 2015 after the scandal broke out.

The high-profile trial, with 51 bankers and businessmen in the dock, could go down as the biggest fraud trial in Vietnam’s history. The Ministry of Public Security has launched a separate investigation into who else benefited from the illegal money.

According to the indictment, more than 50,000 individuals and nearly 400 organizations and businesses received preferential deposit interest payments from the bank, including many State-owned units besides PetroVietnam. But only 19 businesses have admitted to having received a combined VND3 billion ($132,000), while 124 have denied taking any money and the rest have remained silent.

At least three PetroVietnam units were put under investigation earlier this month for colluding with OceanBank executives to appropriate $5.2 million.

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