Truong My Lan, Vietnamese real estate tycoon sentenced to death in large corruption scandal

Truong My Lan. Photo courtesy: YouTube video grab

#Vietnam, #Corruption, #TruongMyLan, #SaigonCommercial Bank

IBNS-CMEDIA: Ho Chi Minh City: A top Vietnamese real estate mogul was sentenced to death on Thursday in one of the largest corruption scandals ever recorded, involving approximately $27 billion in losses, media reports said.

Truong My Lan, the chairman of the leading developer Van Thinh Phat, was convicted of embezzling funds from Saigon Commercial Bank (SCB) over a span of ten years, reported AFP.

Despite the defense’s efforts, a panel of three selected jurors and two judges dismissed all arguments in her favour.

“The defendant’s actions… eroded people’s trust in the leadership of the (Communist) Party and state,” read the verdict at the trial in southern business hub Ho Chi Minh City, according to the AFP report.

Lan rubbished the charges and held her subordinates responsible.

Following a five-week trial in Ho Chi Minh City, 85 more convicts are awaiting verdicts and sentences for various charges, including bribery, abuse of power, misappropriation, and violations of banking regulations.

Lan was found to have embezzled $12.5 billion, but prosecutors revealed on Thursday that the total damages from the scheme now stand at $27 billion, equivalent to six percent of the country’s 2023 GDP.

A death sentence in this case is unusually severe, the report said.

Lan and the others were arrested as part of a nationwide crackdown on corruption, which has ensnared numerous officials and prominent figures in Vietnam’s business community in recent years, the AFP report said.

In her final remarks to the court last week, Lan appeared to hint at thoughts of suicide.

“In my desperation, I thought of death,” she said, according to state media.

“I am so angry that I was stupid enough to get involved in this very fierce business environment — the banking sector — which I have little knowledge of.”

Nearly 42,000 victims of the scandal have been identified by the police, causing widespread shock throughout the Southeast Asian country.

Lan, who is married to a wealthy Hong Kong businessman also under trial, stands accused of creating fraudulent loan applications to siphon funds from SCB, a bank in which she held a 90 percent stake.

Authorities state that the victims of this scheme are SCB bondholders who have been unable to access their funds, receiving neither interest nor principal payments since Lan’s arrest.

During the trial, prosecutors told the jury that they had confiscated over 1,000 properties owned by Lan.

Law enforcement has also disclosed that a sum of $5.2 million, allegedly provided by Lan and certain SCB executives to government officials to conceal the bank’s financial irregularities, constitutes the largest bribe ever recorded in Vietnam.

Do Thi Nhan, the former head of the State Bank of Vietnam’s inspection team, testified during the trial that she was offered the bribe in Styrofoam boxes by SCB’s former CEO, Vo Tan Van. Upon realizing the contents, Nhan declined the boxes, but Van refused to take them back, according to state media reports.

Vietnam has seen a massive clampdown on corruption since 2021, resulting in the indictment of over 4,400 people across more than 1,700 graft cases.

In a separate case, Do Anh Dung, a top Vietnamese luxury real estate magnate and head of the Tan Hoang Minh group, was jailed for eight years last month for defrauding thousands of investors in a $355 million bond scam.