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Banker Gets 30 Years For Embezzling Millions

A Vietnamese banker has been jailed for 30 years and fined $700 million for embezzlement and wrongdoing, reports said Friday as the government forges ahead with its massive anti-graft sweep.

The campaign has already seen the downfall of dozens of bankers, businessmen and high-ranking officials normally shielded from harsh punishment and public shame in the notoriously corrupt one-party state.

The government says it is committed to rooting out graft and polishing its reputation, while critics say conservative communist leaders are also targeting political foes in the process.

Hua Thi Phan, a 71-year-old former senior advisor to the board of TRUSTBank, was convicted after causing a total of $700 million in losses for the bank, according to Ho Chi Minh City's law newspaper, the official mouthpiece of the city's justice department.

Phan, who did not attend the trial because of poor health, pocketed $278 million of that by selling property to the bank at an inflated price, the report said Friday.

"The consequences of the defendant's actions were so serious that a severe verdict was required," the report said, quoting the jury board's statement at the end of the month-long trial that closed Thursday.

Her 27 co-accused were given between 28 years in jail and a two-year suspended sentence in one of the biggest banking trials in Vietnam in years.

The verdict follows a series of high-profile trials targeting Vietnam's corruption-plagued banking sector.

Last year, the former head of Ocean Bank Nguyen Xuan Son was sentenced to death for embezzlement and economic mismanagement in one of the harshest verdicts in years.

His accomplice Ha Van Tham got life, while dozens of others were also jailed in the case that involved dodgy loans and investment deals that cost the state millions of dollars in losses.

That case was connected to the takedown of several executives from the state oil giant PetroVietnam, including former chairman and Politburo member Dinh La Thang who is currently serving two sentences for corruption.

He is the most senior official to be jailed in decades and last month was stripped of his communist party membership.

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