Vietnamese property tycoon Truong My Lan sentenced to death over $US12 billion fraud

Bloomberg
The Nightly
Vietnamese property tycoon Truong My Lan looks on at a court in Ho Chi Minh city as she’s sentenced to death.
Vietnamese property tycoon Truong My Lan looks on at a court in Ho Chi Minh city as she’s sentenced to death. Credit: STR/AFP

A Vietnam court has sentenced real estate tycoon Truong My Lan to death for her role in a $US12 billion ($18.3b) fraud case, underscoring the Communist Party’s determination to crack down on corruption.

Lan, 67, the chairwoman of Van Thinh Phat Group, was arrested in 2022 and eventually faced charges including bribery of government officials and violation of bank lending rules. The main case against her was that she embezzled funds from Saigon Commercial Bank between February 2018 and October 2022.

Under Vietnamese criminal procedure law, Lan is eligible to appeal the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court verdict within 15 days. While the death penalty was awarded on the embezzlement charge, the court also sentenced her to 20 years in prison each on two other charges — violating banking regulations and offering bribes.

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As the sentence was read at the end of the five-week trial, Lan stood in front of the judges with her head bowed.

Lan is also required to pay about 674 trillion dong ($US27b) in compensation — more than twice the $US12b she was convicted of defrauding the Saigon Commercial Bank. Her arrest, initially on bond fraud charges, had led to panic among depositors of SCB, triggering a run on the bank. The events resulted in the State Bank of Vietnam taking control of the lender.

While capital punishment is not unusual in Communist Vietnam, where the death penalty is awarded for 22 offenses — including murder, armed robbery, drug trafficking and rape — it’s handed out relatively rarely for economic crimes. The last widely publicised death penalty awarded on corruption charges was in 2013 when two former executives of Vietnam National Shipping Lines were found guilty of embezzlement.

Lan’s trial put the spotlight on Vietnam’s years-long anti-corruption campaign spearheaded by Communist Party Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong. The push has touched all sectors of society and the highest levels of government and comes as the Southeast Asian nation emerges as a global supply chain hub for companies such as Apple and Samsung. The anti-graft drive has roiled the nation’s bond, banking and property sectors.

Lan’s company, also known as VTP, owns some of the most prestigious properties in the nation’s commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City. During the trial, Lan offered to compensate for the losses caused to Saigon Commercial Bank.

In all, 86 defendants were tried in the case, including Lan’s husband, Hong Kong businessman Eric Chu, and niece, VTP chief executive Truong Hue Van.

Do Thi Nhan, a former head of the State Bank’s inspection and supervision unit, was given a sentence of life in prison after being convicted of taking a $US5.2 million bribe, local media reported. Three former Saigon Commercial Bank executives also received life sentences.

Lan’s husband was given a sentence of nine years in prison for violating banking regulations, according to local media. Her niece was sentenced to 17 years in prison after being convicted of embezzling assets.

Lan has said she didn’t intentionally break the law or cause damage to the state and depositors, her lawyer, Giang Hong Thanh, said in March.

Bloomberg

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