Property billionaire sentenced to death for swindling nearly 3% of Vietnam’s GDP in one of the biggest frauds in history

11 April 2024, 10:25

Truong My Lan has been sentenced to death in Vietnam's biggest ever fraud case
Truong My Lan has been sentenced to death in Vietnam's biggest ever fraud case. Picture: Getty

By Asher McShane

A top Vietnamese property tycoon has been sentenced to death in one of the biggest corruption cases in history.

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Truong My Lan, the boss property developer Van Thinh Phat, was accused of swindling cash from Saigon Commercial Bank (SCB) over more than a decade.

The total sum amounted to $12.5bn, nearly 3% of the country’s GDP in 2022.

She illegally controlled the Saigon Joint Stock Commercial Bank between 2012 and 2022 and siphoned off vast sums of money through thousands of ghost companies, and by paying bribes to government officials.

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Truong My Lan during her trial at the Ho Chi Minh City People's Court
Truong My Lan during her trial at the Ho Chi Minh City People's Court. Picture: Getty

The entire country of Vietnam has been shocked by the scale of her crime.

Her arrest is among the most high-profile in an ongoing anti-corruption campaign in Vietnam dubbed the ‘Blazing Furnace’.

The 67-year-old had denied the charges and blamed her subordinates.

Vietnam has an ongoing anti-corruption campaign dubbed the ‘Blazing Furnace’.
Vietnam has an ongoing anti-corruption campaign dubbed the ‘Blazing Furnace’. Picture: Getty

in final remarks to the court last week she said that she had 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.”

She was sentenced to death on Thursday for plundering the coffers of one of the country's largest banks over a period of 11 years.

According to prosecutors, over a period of three years from February 2019, she ordered her driver to withdraw 108 trillion Vietnamese dong, more than $4bn (£2.3bn) in cash from the bank.

The cash, which would have weighed at least two tonnes, was stored in her basement.

Lan was found guilty of embezzlement, bribery and violations of banking rules at the end of a trial in Ho Chi Minh City on Thursday, according to state media.

She was found guilty after a five-week trial which saw a total of 86 defendants tried in the case including her husband and other high-profile businessmen.

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