Vietnamese real estate tycoon given death sentence over $12 billion fraud


A court in Vietnam has sentenced real estate tycoon Truong My Lan to death over her involvement in a 304 trillion dong ($12.5 billion) financial fraud case, the largest in the country’s history, state media reported on Thursday.

Lan, the chairwoman of real estate developer Van Thinh Phat Holdings Group, was found guilty of embezzlement, bribery, and violations of banking rules.

Her trial, which began on March 5, ended earlier than planned and was a dramatic outcome of Vietnam’s campaign against corruption, a pledge made by the leader of the ruling Communist Party, Nguyen Phu Trong, to eradicate.

“We will keep fighting to see what we can do,” a family member told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity, according to CNN reports. Before the verdict, the family member had said Lan would appeal against the sentence.

Lan had pleaded not guilty to the embezzlement and bribery charges, Nguyen Huy Thiep, one of Lan’s lawyers, told Reuters.

“Of course she will appeal the verdict,” he added, noting she was sentenced to death for the embezzlement charge and to 20 years each for the other two charges of bribery and violations of banking regulations.

Truong My Lan, along with her accomplices, was found guilty of embezzling over 304 trillion dong from Saigon Joint Stock Commercial Bank (SCB), which she effectively controlled through numerous proxies, despite regulations strictly limiting large shareholdings in lenders, according to investigators.

Between early 2018 and October 2022, when the state bailed out SCB following a run on its deposits triggered by Lan’s arrest, she allegedly misappropriated substantial sums by orchestrating unlawful loans to shell companies, investigators revealed.

Currently, the bank is being supported by the central bank and is undergoing a complex restructuring process to determine the legal status of hundreds of assets used as collateral for loans and bonds issued by Van Thinh Phat Holdings Group (VTP), of which Lan was the chairwoman. The total value of the bonds alone amounts to $1.2 billion. Many of these assets include high-end properties and unfinished projects.

Prior to her downfall, Lan had been a prominent figure in Vietnam’s financial sector, playing a significant role in the previous rescue of SCB over a decade ago, before her involvement in the bank’s subsequent crisis.

Lan was also found guilty of bribing officials to turn a blind eye, including paying $5.2 million to a senior central bank inspector, Do Thi Nhan, who received a life sentence.

Vietnam predominantly reserves the death penalty for violent crimes, but it also applies it to economic offenses. According to human rights groups, the country has executed numerous convicts in recent years, primarily through lethal injection.

In the case mentioned, 84 defendants received varying sentences, including probation for three years to life imprisonment. Among them were Truong My Lan’s husband, Eric Chu, a Hong Kong businessman, who was sentenced to nine years in prison, and her niece, who received a 17-year sentence.


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