HANOI: A Vietnamese court Monday sentenced a former banker to life in prison for a fraud involving more than $230 million, one of the communist country's largest-ever such cases.
Huynh Thi Huyen Nhu, 37, was convicted alongside 22 other defendants who were given sentences of up to 20 years in prison after a three-week trial ended Monday, a clerk at the People's Court in the southern metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City told AFP.
Nhu raised some $231 million in loans from individuals, companies and other banks when she worked for the state-run Vietnam Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Industry and Trade (Vietinbank).
She claimed to be raising funds on the bank's behalf, the Tuoi Tre newspaper reported.
Nhu forged some 200 documents and hired other people to counterfeit the official stamps of Vietinbank and other companies in order to obtain the loans, the report said.
The court ordered Nhu to return all the money she had stolen, it added.
Nhu had racked up debts by making a series of disastrous investments in real estate and then "turned to swindling" in order to repay her debts, it said.
The judge dismissed her lawyer's argument that former employer Vietinbank should take responsibility and compensate clients for their losses, VNExpress reported.
"Nhu was the gang leader who took all responsibilities and Vietinbank knew nothing about her fraudulent acts," the report said.
Vietnam is one of the world's most corrupt nations, according to watchdogs.
Corruption, mismanagement and inefficiency at state-run companies, a pillar of the communist country's economy are seen as fuelling longstanding economic woes.
The country's leaders have pledged to tackle corruption amid rising public anger, leading to a recent series of high-profile trials of former officials and bankers for corruption, fraud and embezzlement.
In November a former banker and his business associate at a large state bank were sentenced to death for embezzling $25 million.
Two former top executives at scandal-hit national shipping company Vinalines were sentenced to death in December for embezzlement as the group almost collapsed under some $3 billion of debt. (AFP)