June 12th, 2024

Vietnam sentences real estate tycoon Truong My Lan to death in its largest ever fraud case

By Aniruddha Ghosal, The Associated Press on April 11, 2024.

Business woman Truong My Lan, front center, attends a trial in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on Thursday, April 11, 2024. The real estate tycoon may face the death penalty if convicted of allegations that she siphoned off an amount of $12.5 billion, nearly 3 percent of Vietnam's 2022 GDP, in its largest financial fraud case. (Thanh Tung/VnExpress via AP)

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) – Real estate tycoon Truong My Lan was sentenced Thursday to death by a court in Ho Chi Minh city in southern Vietnam in the country’s largest financial fraud case ever, state media Thanh Nien said.

The 67-year-old chair of the real estate company Van Thinh Phat was accused of fraud amounting to $12.5 billion – nearly 3% of the country’s 2022 GDP. She illegally controlled the Saigon Joint Stock Commercial Bank between 2012 to 2022 to siphon of these funds through thousands of ghost companies and by paying bribes to government officials.

Lan’s arrest in October 2022 was among the most high-profile in an ongoing anti-corruption drive in Vietnam that has intensified since 2022. The so-called Blazing Furnace campaign has touched the highest echelons of Vietnamese politics. Former President Vo Van Thuong resigned in March after being implicated in the campaign.

But it’s the scale of Lan’s trial has shocked the nation. VTP was among Vietnam’s richest real estate firms, with projects including luxury residential buildings, offices, hotels and shopping centers. Analysts said the scale of the scam raised questions about whether other banks or businesses had similarly erred, dampening Vietnam’s economic outlook and making foreign investors jittery at a time when Vietnam has been trying to position itself as the ideal home for businesses trying to pivot their supply chains away from China.

The real estate sector in Vietnam has been hit particularly hard: An estimated 1,300 property firms withdrew from the market in 2023, developers have been offering discounts and gold as gifts to attract buyers, and despite rent for shophouses falling by a third in Ho Chi Minh City, many in the city center are still empty, according to state media.

In November, Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, Vietnam’s top politician, said that the anti-corruption fight would “continue for the long term.”

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