Vietnamese property tycoon sentenced to death in financial fraud case

Vietnamese property tycoon Truong My Lan (C) looks on at a court in Ho Chi Minh city on April 11, 2024. A top Vietnamese property tycoon could face the death penalty when she and dozens of other co-accused face verdicts on April 11 in one of the country’s biggest fraud cases over the embezzlement of USD 12.5 billion.

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The Vietnamese property tycoon Truong My Lan was sentenced to death on Thursday for her involvement in the country’s biggest ever financial fraud case, state media outlet Thanh Nien reported.

Lan was found guilty of embezzlement, bribery and violating banking rules around lending. She was sentenced to death for the embezzlement charges and to 20 years in prison for each of the other two accusations, according to state media.

Lan, who is the chairwoman of real estate development firm Van Thinh Phat Holdings Group, was accused of appropriating assets from Saigon Joint Stock Commercial Bank (SCB) by taking out unlawful loans to Van Thinh Phat and shell companies.

Much of Lan’s defense was based on her lawyers arguing that she only controlled around 15% of the bank and did not have an official position in the bank, suggesting that embezzlement charges were not appropriate, local media reported.

However, witnesses who held large stakes themselves told the court that they were instructed to act on Lan’s behalf. Judges therefore found that Lan holds a controlling stake of over 90% in SCB through proxies and was the de-facto owner of the bank, local media reported.

The loans were reportedly worth a total of $44 billion and accounted for over 90% of SCB’s lending between 2012 and 2022. Around $12.3 billion were allegedly funnelled to Van Thinh Phat while other funds were used privately. Some of the over 1,000 loans had been settled by Lan, judges found, but the court said she would have to compensate the bank fully.

Lan was first arrested in 2022, with allegations dating back around 10 years. Alongside Lan, more than 80 other people including central bank officials have been charged in the case for damaging SCB, state media reported.

Reuters reported on Thursday that a family member confirmed that Lan would appeal the sentence.

CNBC was not able to independently verify the report.

The case against Lan is part of a wider crackdown on corruption that has been spearheaded by Vietnam’s ruling Communist party and has been dubbed “blazing furnace.” High level politicians including former Vietnamese presidents have been forced to resign in connection with the campaign and hundreds of officials and businesspeople have been sentenced.

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