Vietnamese Billionaire Charged With $44B Bank Fraud Sentenced to Death

A court in Ho Chi Minh City last Thursday sentenced real estate billionaire Truong My Lan to death in Vietnam’s largest financial fraud case in history, the Associated Press reported.

Lan, 67, the owner of the real estate company Van Thinh Phat, was charged with embezzling $12.5 billion from the Saigon Joint Stock Commercial Bank which she illegally controlled from 2012 to 2022. The real estate company owner allowed 2,500 loans to “ghost companies” that resulted in $27 billion in losses to the bank. The money from those loans eventually made its way to Lan.

Despite Lan’s charitable activities and lack of criminal record, the court sentenced her to death due to the seriousness of the charges.

According to state media outlet VnExpress, the court said Lan orchestrated a sophisticated criminal enterprise the consequences of which meant there was no way to recover the money stolen.

The court determined that her crimes eroded the people’s trust in the state and party and placed the Saigon Joint Stock Commercial Bank under special control.

Lan’s niece, Van Thinh Phat CEO Truong Hue Van was sentenced to 17 years for her part in the fraud while Lan’s husband Eric Chu Nap-kee was sentenced to nine years.

Lan’s family started Van Thinh Phat in 1992 when Vietnam adopted a more market-oriented economy. The company would later become one of the country’s wealthiest real estate firms, with major projects like hotels, shopping centers, office buildings, and luxury residential buildings.

In coordination with Vietnam’s central bank, in 2011, Lan orchestrated a merger between SCB Bank and two other lenders, which the court determined was done so Lan could access the financial firm’s cash.

Do Thi Nhan, a former official from Vietnam’s central bank, who accepted $5.2 billion in bribes from Lan, was sentenced to life in prison.

Lan was arrested in October 2022 as part of a high-profile anti-corruption effort in Vietnam that reached into the highest levels of the country’s politics. Former President Vo Van Thuong stepped down last month after he was implicated in the anti-corruption campaign.