Widening risks from corruption probe

admin 2022年10月26日 社会 9 0



HANOI: It is a jarring image for one of the world’s fastest growing economies: Scores of Vietnamese flooded branches of the nation’s fifth-largest bank to pull out their savings amid rumours the lender is tied to a real estate conglomerate under investigation for fraud.

Vietnam’s central bank spent the last week calming markets and depositors while Saigon Commercial Bank (SCB) raised interest rates and lured back customers.

Last Saturday, the regulator said it would place the privately-held lender under “special scrutiny” and directed four banks to help manage it.

The episode underscores the challenges facing an economy that the government expects to expand 8% this year – one of the highest rates worldwide – but where debt burdens are rising for the government, households and businesses.

The developing country, whose communist leaders began embracing a “market economy with socialist orientation” about three decades ago and now hosts firms such as Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co, is grappling with a prolonged campaign to weed out corruption and tighten guardrails in its markets.

The benchmark VN Index fell as much as 1.6% as banks dropped.

JSC Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam lost as much as 2.9% while Tien Phong Bank, Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam fell by at least 1.2%.

While Vietnam’s financial system is on “solid ground,” vulnerabilities remain, said Miguel Chanco, chief emerging Asia economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics Ltd.

“Capital adequacy ratios were on a steady decline before Covid hit, and it remains particularly low for most state-owned banks, and household debt has risen sharply in the past decade or so,” Chanco said.

“It’s no surprise that confidence in the sector still is somewhat fragile, as highlighted by the rush to withdraw deposits.”

Police on Oct 8 announced the detention of Truong My Lan, chairwoman of real estate conglomerate Van Thinh Phat Holdings Group, and other company officials in connection with an investigation into the issuance and trading of bonds of some companies where trillions of dong were allegedly appropriated in 2018 and 2019, according to the Public Security ministry.

Lan couldn’t be reached for comment after her arrest, and Van Thinh Phat didn’t respond to earlier requests for comment.

Ties between SCB, and Van Thinh Phat haven’t been officially acknowledged and previous local media reports citing the link have been taken down.

In a statement, the bank said Lan “does not participate in the management and administration of SCB.”

The lack of transparency fuelled rumours. Police have investigated numerous individuals for posting what they say is fake news about SCB and urging customers to withdraw their money, local media reported.

The memory of past crises hangs heavy over Vietnam’s leaders.

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