Former banking tycoon arrested, another blow to former PM Dung

Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security announced on 29th November the arrest and prosecution of Mr. Tran Bac Ha, former chairman of the Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV), one of the four largest state-owned banks. Mr. Ha was widely perceived to be “a banking tycoon” in his 13 years’ tenure as BIDV’s General Director and thereafter Chairman. Observers suggest that the arrest of Mr. Ha is another political blow to former Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Ha’s close ally.

Ministry of Public Security didn’t disclose the detail of Ha’s charge, however, he was reportedly involved in illegal loans related to Vietnam Construction Bank (VNCB) in 2013, according to the Vietnamese media. BIDV loaned VND 4.7 trillion (USD 200 million) to 12 paper companies established by Mr. Pham Cong Danh, then chairman of VNCB, who embezzled the money, which in turn caused the loss of VND 2.55 trillion for VNCB. Mr. Ha, then Chairman of BIDV, allegedly approved the illegal loansto the 12 companies.

His arrest was not unexpected, because Vietnamese Communist Party already expelled Mr. Ha from the Party after the inspection of his violation last June. However, it is noteworthy that Mr. Ha had a close relationship with Former PM Dung for his BIDV’s Presidency and Chairmanship between 2003 and 2016.

After Mr. Dung’s retirement in 2016, not a few senior officials and his allies under his premier have been arrested or disciplined including Mr. Dinh La Thang, former Party’s Politburo member who was sentenced guilty of his misconduct in his chairmanship of state-owned oil company Petrovietnam.  Mr. Dung is believed to be the ultimate target of the anticorruption campaign led by the Party’s General Secretary cum State President Nguyen Phu Trong. Mr. Ha’s arrest may trigger further expansion of anti-corruption probe into other senior officials.

(Akihide Mori, Vietnam watcher)