Vietnam sentences real estate to death over $27bn scam

Alex Omenye
Alex Omenye

A prominent Vietnamese real estate mogul, Truong My Lan, received a death sentence on Thursday in one of the largest corruption cases in history, involving an estimated $27 billion in damages.

Following a five-week trial, a panel consisting of three selected jurors and two judges rejected all defense arguments presented by Truong My Lan, the chair of major developer Van Thinh Phat. She was found guilty of embezzling funds from Saigon Commercial Bank over a period of ten years.

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

Alongside Lan, 85 others were also convicted on various charges, including bribery, abuse of power, appropriation, and violations of banking law. Four individuals received life imprisonment, while others were sentenced to jail terms ranging from 20 years to three years suspended. Lan’s husband, Hong Kong billionaire Eric Chu Nap Kee, received a nine-year prison sentence.

Although Lan was found guilty of embezzling $12.5 billion, prosecutors revealed that the total damages caused by the scam amounted to $27 billion, which is approximately six percent of the country’s 2023 GDP. The court mandated Lan, aged 67, to compensate nearly the entire sum of damages.

While death sentences are relatively rare in such cases, Vietnam has a high rate of executions globally, as noted by Amnesty International. Lan and others were apprehended as part of a national anti-corruption campaign that targeted numerous officials and business figures in recent years.

Lan expressed despair in her final remarks to the court, stating, “In my desperation, I thought of death.” Her arrest in October 2022 led to rare protests in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, indicating the gravity of the scandal in the one-party communist state.

Police identified approximately 42,000 victims of the scam, including Nga, a 67-year-old Hanoi resident who voiced disappointment over Lan’s death sentence, wishing she had received a life sentence to witness the repercussions of her actions fully.

The scheme involved Lan orchestrating fraudulent loan applications to withdraw funds from SCB, of which she owned a 90 percent stake. Victims of the scam, mainly SCB bondholders, have been unable to access their funds or receive interest or principal payments since Lan’s arrest.

The trial also implicated Do Thi Nhan, the former head of the State Bank of Vietnam’s inspection team, who received a life sentence for accepting bribes. Nhan testified that millions of dollars were handed to her in Styrofoam boxes by SCB’s former CEO.

Vietnam’s anti-corruption campaign has resulted in over 4,400 indictments across more than 1,700 graft cases since 2021. In a separate case, another prominent Vietnamese luxury property tycoon, Do Anh Dung, received an eight-year prison sentence last month for his involvement in a $355 million bond scam.

Share this Article
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *