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Who Is Truong My Lan And Why Is She Being Sentenced to Death?

Last Updated April 11, 2024 4:37 PM
Giuseppe Ciccomascolo
Last Updated April 11, 2024 4:37 PM

Key Takeaways

  • Vietnamese billionaire Truong My Lan was sentenced to death for her role in a $12.5 billion fraud scheme.
  • Lan, the head of Van Thinh Phat, was accused of embezzling funds from Saigon Commercial Bank (SCB) for a decade.
  • The case is seen as part of a wider effort by Vietnam’s Communist Party to crack down on corruption.

Truong My Lan, 67, a leading Vietnamese billionaire and head of Van Thinh Phat, is sentenced  to death for her involvement in Vietnam’s largest-ever financial fraud case, totaling $12.5 billion.

Lan oversees Van Thinh Phat, a renowned real estate firm known for its luxury properties, including residential complexes, offices, hotels, and shopping centers. Her case is a high-profile example of the government’s commitment to tackling fraud and corruption.

Who’s Truong My Lan?

Hailing from a Sino-Vietnamese family in Ho Chi Minh City, Lan began her entrepreneurial journey as a market vendor selling cosmetics with her mother. With Vietnam’s economic reforms in 1986, she expanded into land and property acquisitions, building a substantial portfolio by the 1990s.

By 2011, Lan had become a prominent business figure, spearheading the merger of three struggling banks into Saigon Commercial Bank, now one of Vietnam’s largest banks. Assets linked to Van Thinh Phat are valued between $12 billion and $48 billion, including prime locations like Ho Chi Minh City’s Dong Khoi Street.

Notable assets associated with Van Thinh Phat include the Times Square Saigon building, featuring the Reverie Saigon hotel, and the Sherwood Residence. Capital Place, a grade-A office building spanning 100,000 square meters, is among their holdings. Despite the extensive portfolio, ownership clarity is often unclear due to unfinished projects and collateralization for loans and bonds. Lan’s arrest in 2022 has drawn attention to her wealth and the complex asset network associated with her and Van Thinh Phat.

Sentenced To Death For Fraud

Lan was convicted of embezzling funds from Saigon Commercial Bank (SCB)  over a decade, alongside 85 others, including former central bankers, government officials, and SCB executives. Accused of orchestrating fraudulent loan applications, she allegedly siphoned funds from the bank for 11 years, from 2012 to 2022. State media reports indicate that these loans comprised a staggering 93% of the total credit extended by the bank during that period.

Arrested in October 2022, Lan denied the charges, intending to appeal, according to a relative’s statement  to Reuters before the verdict. The death sentence, an unusually harsh punishment for a corruption case, was handed down on Thursday, April 11, 2024.

During the trial, Lan cited her lack of banking experience and legal understanding as contributing factors, expressing remorse and pleading for leniency for her husband and niece, also on trial.

The five-week trial, extensively covered by Vietnam’s state media, involved 6 tonnes of documents kept in 105 boxes. Over 1,000 properties belonging to Lan have been seized and nearly 2,700 individuals have been summoned. Security measures, including surveillance cameras and fire safety equipment, were implemented to safeguard the evidence. Additionally, 200 lawyers were involved in the proceedings.

Vietnam Is Tackling Frauds And Corruption

The trial forms part of a nationwide anti-corruption campaign spearheaded by the Communist Party‘s secretary general, Nguyễn Phú Trọng, known as “Blazing Furnace,” which has intensified in recent years, resulting in the indictment of thousands and the resignation of high-ranking officials.

To conceal the fraud, Lan and other SCB officials allegedly provided state officials with a $5.2 million bribe, which was reported  as the largest ever recorded in Vietnam. During the trial, Do Thi Nhan, a former chief banking inspector at the State Bank of Vietnam, recounted that the money was delivered in Styrofoam boxes. Nhan stated that upon realizing the contents of the boxes, she refused to accept them, but Lan declined to retrieve them, according to state media.

Since 2021, Vietnam has witnessed a sweeping anti-corruption campaign, with thousands facing indictment—a concerted effort described by analysts as the most extensive in the Communist Party’s history.

Last month, the Vietnamese government announced  the resignation of its second president in as many years, Vo Van Thuong, citing “violations and flaws” that tarnished public perception and the party’s reputation. Thuong’s resignation followed that of his predecessor, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, who was ousted due to corruption scandals involving officials under his administration.

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