Eximbank ordered to reimburse additional $5 mln to customer

A court in Saigon has ordered Eximbank to pay a customer the interest she would have earned on her deposits stolen by an employee.

The HCMC People's Court issued the order Friday after reviewing the appeals of Eximbank and its customer Chu Thi Binh in a case in which the bank's former employee, Le Nguyen Hung, had misappropriated VND245 billion ($10.5 million) from her.

Before the case went to court, the bank had agreed to give Binh the VND245 billion stolen from her but still kept the money in a savings account at the bank and held back interest.

After the court of first instance heard the case last November, it ordered the private bank to return the principal money Binh had deposited as well as interest calculated using the indefinite-term interest rate.

Binh appealed the verdict. The appeals court accepted Binh's contention that the interest should be calculated on fixed-term deposit rates instead. It ordered Eximbank to pay her over VND99 billion ($4.26 million) in interest and over VND16 billion ($690,000) in late interest payments, or a total of nearly $5 million.

Her appeal to have the court consider the responsibilities of the bank's leaders in the case was, however, rejected with the appeals court saying it was outside its jurisdiction.

The court also rejected Eximbank's appeal, in which the bank asked the court to consider if Binh was also at fault and partially responsible for the losses, arguing that it was a number of documents Binh had signed that enabled Hung to steal money from the bank.

According to the court, as Hung is still at large, the fraud case committed by him has been suspended until his capture and Binh's civil responsibility in the case cannot be considered until Hung's case is concluded.

An appeal by Ho Ngoc Thuy, an Eximbank employee found guilty of "negligence causing severe damage to state, organization or business’ property" by the court of first instance was also rejected, and the appeals court upheld her sentence of 4 years and 6 months in prison.

According to the indictment, Binh, a seafood company owner, had been making large deposits at Eximbank's HCMC branch since 2007.

This gave her VIP status, and Hung, who was the branch's deputy director, was assigned to personally handle her transactions.

Taking advantage of her trust and using forged documents, in 2014, Hung allegedly started to withdraw money from her 11 savings accounts and deposit them into an account he had opened under the name of his wife's aunt.

Hung also abused his employees' trust to forge withdrawal and deposit slips to steal VND19 billion ($812,660) from two other customers’ accounts, the indictment said.

Hung's fraud was only discovered after he quit the bank in 2017 and Binh discovered that a huge sum was missing from her accounts. As he’d already fled abroad, an international arrest warrant has been issued for Hung.

Thuy and five of her coworkers at the branch were arrested and brought to trial for failing to comply with banking regulations, enabling Hung to steal the money.

Following the trial court, Eximbank filed an appeal against the verdict's civil side, prompting Binh to withdraw the VND245 billion that the bank had been keeping and file an appeal demanding her interest payments.

Eximbank is one of the 31 joint stock commercial banks in the country, according to the State Bank of Vietnam, with Japan's Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC) being its foreign strategic shareholder since 2008.

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