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Vietnam tea mogul, daughter suspected of co-conspiring in $401mn bank loss

Wednesday, January 11, 2017, 15:00 GMT+7

Prosecutors have suggested that police look into the possible relationship between the chairman of a major Vietnamese drinks company, his daughter and a former-bank CEO that caused multimillion-dollar losses.

On September 9, a court in Ho Chi Minh City sentenced Pham Cong Danh, former chairman of the erstwhile Vietnam Construction Joint Stock Commercial Bank (VNCB), to 30 years behind bars for his role in the loss of more than VND9 trillion (US$401.79 million) from the state budget.

Danh, 51, was sentenced on charges of “violating lending regulations of credit institutions” and “deliberate acts against state regulations on economic management, causing serious consequences” after the court concluded its’ month-long trial of a case considered one with the largest-ever financial frauds in Vietnam.

In addition to the ex-VNCB chairman, 25 other defendants also received their sentences in court.

Danh and all of the other convicted filed an appeal against the ruling shortly after the September trial, and that appeal hearing took place on Tuesday.

Pham Cong Danh

At the appeal, the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Procuracy demanded that the Ministry of Public Security determine the criminal responsibility of Tran Quy Thanh and his daughter, Tran Ngoc Bich, for allegedly co-conspiring with Danh to illegally withdraw VND5.19 trillion ($231.7 million) from the VNCB.

Thanh is chairman of Tan Hiep Phat Group, known for its Dr. Thanh brand of bottled herbal tea, and Bich is the company’s vice director. Tan Hiep Phat made local headlines in December 2015, after winning a fly-in-a-bottle case against one consumer, who was sentenced to seven years in prison for blackmail.

According to the prosecutors in the bank fraud case, Thanh and Bich had assisted Danh in his plot to illegally withdraw money from VNCB, which eventually resulted in huge losses for the bank.

Danh, as the then VNCB chief, granted a VND5.49 trillion ($245.09 million) loan to a group led by Bich, who put 124 savings books up as collateral.

The lending was said to be staged, as Danh later withdrew VND5.19 trillion from the money lent to Bich. VNCB never retrieved this sum, resulting in a massive loss for the state budget.

ba-bich-dai-diien-tan-hiep-phat-tra-loi-Tran Ngoc Bich

According to the municipal procuracy, Danh acted as the mastermind behind the plot, while the father and daughter duo, along with the owners of the other savings books misused their loans.

“The [VND5.49 trillion] loan was settled as earlier agreed upon by Danh and Thanh, so not investigating the possible criminal responsibility of those two in this case may result in the non- prosecution of criminals,” the procuracy said.

Thanh failed to appear at both the first-instance case in September and the appeal court on health grounds.

The procuracy yesterday also demanded that the court uphold the 30-year jail sentence given to Danh, as well as the sentences to the other 25 defendants.

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