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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Asia

Fraud trial of Vietnam bank tycoon opens

AFP | Tuesday, May 20, 2014

HANOI - A Vietnamese court on Tuesday began the fraud trial of one of the country's top banking tycoons, in a multi-million dollar scandal that shocked the nation's already ailing financial markets.

Nguyen Duc Kien, 50, is accused of fraud, tax evasion, illegal trade and "deliberate wrongdoing causing serious consequences", according to the indictment read at the Hanoi court.

Kien, a multi-millionaire, went on trial with eight other defendants, all top bankers at the Asia Commercial Bank (ACB), which counts global banking giant Standard Chartered as one of its "strategic partners".

According to the indictment, Kien -- a shareholder in some of Vietnam's largest financial institutions and a founder of ACB -- and his accomplices caused losses of $67 million through illegal cross-bank deposits and investments.

Most of the cash vanished when Kien ordered his staff to make deposits at the Vietnam Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Industry and Trade (Vietinbank).

An employee from that bank has already been sentenced to life imprisonment for fraud.

Kien told the court on Tuesday he would "take responsibility" for things he may have done, but rejected the full indictment.

He said it was "incorrect" and "not in accordance with the law".

At the trial, scheduled to last till June 6, prosecutors also accused Kien of forging documents to defraud the top steel firm Hoa Phat Group of $12.5 million.

Tran Xuan Gia, a former minister of Planning and Investment and later ACB's chairman, was temporarily excused from prosecution because of serious illness, court president Nguyen Huu Chinh added.

If found guilty, Kien could face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

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