NEW YORK (AP) _ A federal grand jury has accused the former president of a failed Chinatown bank of trying to create a personal financial empire through the alleged secret diversion of $15 million in depositors' money.

The 48-count indictment, handed up Tuesday, also named the defunct Golden Pacific National Bank's ex-vice president as a conspirator in the alleged scheme, which federal prosecutors said led to the bank's collapse.

Golden Pacific was one of the largest banks in New York's Chinatown section when federal officials ordered it closed for insufficient assets in 1985. The shutdown caused a near-riot among anxious customers.

Now, the bank's former president, Kuang Hsung Joseph Chuang, and ex-vice president, Theresa Shieh, are accused of defrauding federal bank regulators through ''a multitude of false statements, fraudulent documents, phony signatures, off-book transactions and other tricks.''

William Doran, an FBI spokesman, said Chuang and Ms. Shieh ''looted this bank for their own personal benefit at the expense of the Chinese community.''

The indictment also charged Chuang with conspiring to make an illegal $6,000 contribution to the campaign of Sen. Alan Cranston, D-Calif., for the 1984 presidential nomination.

There was no evidence of wrongdoing by Cranston or his campaign staff, said U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani.

Lawyers for Chuang and Ms. Shieh issued a statement denying the charges and vowing to fight them at trial.

The statement noted Chuang was not charged with misappropriating any bank funds and said the prosecutors did not understand ''customs in the Chinese community.'' Giuliani told reporters that claim was ''irrelevant.''

If convicted on all counts, Chuang, 47, faces up to 235 years in prison and $1.9 million in fines. Ms. Shieh, 33, faces up to 220 years in prison and $2.1 million in fines.

At the center of the alleged scheme, according to the indictment, was a multimillion-dollar slush fund obtained through the sale of non-negotiable certificates, known as ''yellow certificates.''

While customers were told they were certificates of deposit, federal bank examiners were told they were investments, not deposits protected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Those accounts allegedly were used by the defendants ''to hide their evasion of banking laws and regulations, to disguise the true condition of certain bank assets and to fund Chuang's efforts to create a personal financial empire,'' according to the indictment.

When the bank was declared insolvent, the FDIC would not pay off on some $15 million in yellow certificates, saying it was unclear whether they were insured deposits or investments. But in October 1986, at the FDIC's request, a judge ruled the yellow deposits were entitled to insurance coverage.

The FDIC has a pending civil suit against Chuang over the yellow certificate funds.