April 11, 2024

-Business Insider


A Vietnamese real estate tycoon was sentenced to death on Thursday by a Ho Chi Minh City court over her role in a multibillion-dollar financial fraud case.

Truong My Lan, the chairwoman of real estate developer Van Thinh Phat Group, was arrested in 2022.

The fraud trial, which began on March 5, was Vietnam’s largest ever, and among Southeast Asia’s most significant corruption scandals. Lan was found guilty of embezzlement, bribery, and violating banking rules.

The case goes back to her involvement in the 2011 merger between Saigon Commercial Joint Stock Bank and two other banks.

Lan was accused of illegally controlling Saigon Commercial Bank and using shell companies to secure more than 2,500 loans for herself and her accomplices, according to local media outlet VnExpress.

Although Lan didn’t directly hold executive power at the bank, she had significant control, owning 91.5% of the bank’s shares through third parties and shell companies, The Guardian reported.

Prosecutors said that over a decade, Lan embezzled $12.5 billion, about 3% of Vietnam’s 2022 GDP, AP and Bloomberg reported.

However, according to VnExpress, prosecutors added that the estimated damage caused to the bank by the scam amounted to much more — about $27 billion.

The verdict requires Lan to return this sum in compensation, which prosecutors conceded was highly unlikely, according to BBC News.

Lan was also accused of bribing government officials to cover up the fraud and violating banking regulations, AP reported. A family member told Reuters that Lan plans to appeal the verdict.

While prosecutors identified Lan as the ringleader, others involved are also being punished.

Former executives at Saigon Commercial Bank have been sentenced to life in prison, along with a senior figure at Vietnam’s central bank, VnExpress reported.

Family members were also implicated. Lan’s husband, Eric Chu, was given a nine-year prison sentence on Thursday for aiding his wife, while her niece, Truong Hue Van, was sentenced to 17 years, the news outlet reported.

The death penalty is not unheard of in Vietnam, but it is primarily handed out in cases involving drug trafficking or murder, not corruption.

The severity of Lan’s punishment seems to reflect Vietnam’s ongoing and high-profile campaign against corruption.