Vietnam upholds banking tycoon's 30-year jail term

Vietnam upholds banking tycoon's 30-year jail term
Former Vietnamese banking tycoon Nguyen Duc Kien (C), 50, stands listening to the verdict read at the Hanoi People's Court on June 9, 2014.

HANOI - A Vietnamese court on Monday upheld the 30-year jail sentence on a disgraced banking tycoon for his role in a multi-million dollar scandal that shocked the nation's financial markets.

Nguyen Duc Kien, 50, was found guilty in June of fraud, tax evasion, illegal trading and "deliberate wrongdoing causing serious consequences".

He denied the charges but was imprisoned for three decades and handed a 75 billion dong (US$3.5 million) fine.

"Kien still said he was innocent, but the court has totally rejected the defence and concluded that there was no foundation to reduce his sentence," his lawyer Bui Quang Nghiem told AFP after the ruling.

Kien appeared at the Hanoi Court of Appeals every day over the course of his 10-day appeal hearing.

The flamboyant multi-millionaire was on trial in June alongside seven other defendants, all top bankers at Asia Commercial Bank (ACB) which counts global banking giant Standard Chartered as one of its "strategic partners".

Five of the defendants, who had been sentenced to between two and eight years in jail, appealed alongside him in December.

One defendant, Le Vu Ky, 58, a former vice-chairman of the ACB board, had his sentence reduced from five to four years Monday. All the other sentences were upheld.

Kien - a shareholder in some of Vietnam's largest financial institutions and a founder of ACB - and his accomplices were accused of causing losses of US$67 million through illegal cross-bank deposits and investments.

They were said to have exploited legal loopholes to run complex schemes for raising and transferring cash. These endangered the state's management of Vietnam's money markets, according to the verdict at the time.

Kien first rose to public prominence as a vocal critic of corruption in Vietnamese football, using his role as chairman of Hanoi Football Club to sound off against Vietnam's Football Federation.

When Kien was arrested in August 2012 it sent "shockwaves across the country", state media reported at the time, and caused ACB's share price to plunge.

Some experts interpreted the arrest of the high-profile banker as part of bitter infighting within the ruling Communist Party.

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