Vietnamese Billionaire Sentenced To Death For Fraud

( – In a landmark decision that reverberates across Vietnam’s financial and political landscape, a court in Ho Chi Minh City has issued a death sentence to Truong My Lan, a prominent real estate mogul, marking a historic verdict in what is now the largest financial fraud case in the nation’s history. Lan was convicted of orchestrating a fraud involving more than 304 trillion dong (approximately $12.46 billion), state media detailed.

The case, which has captured the nation’s attention, concluded prematurely on Thursday, significantly earlier than anticipated. Lan, who holds the position of chairwoman at Van Thinh Phat Holdings Group, faced charges of embezzlement, bribery, and numerous banking regulation violations. These charges stem from her activities centered around the manipulation of funds from the Saigon Joint Stock Commercial Bank (SCB), which she was found to control through various intermediaries.

This trial is a direct outcome of an ongoing anti-corruption initiative vigorously pursued by Nguyen Phu Trong, the leader of Vietnam’s Communist Party. For years, Trong has committed to eradicating corruption within the nation, and this trial reflects a significant stride in that direction.

Despite the severity of the charges and the conclusive trial, a family member of Lan’s expressed their intent to continue fighting the verdict. “We will keep fighting to see what we can do,” the family member stated to Reuters under the condition of anonymity, signaling the possibility of an appeal which was later confirmed by Nguyen Huy Thiep, one of Lan’s attorneys. “Of course she will appeal the verdict,” Thiep affirmed, pointing out that the death sentence was specifically for the embezzlement charge, with additional 20-year sentences for the bribery and banking violations.

Vietnam is known for imposing capital punishment not only for violent crimes but also for severe economic crimes, reflecting the government’s stringent stance on corruption and financial misconduct. According to human rights organizations, the country has executed hundreds by lethal injection in recent years.

The extensive trial involved 84 defendants, receiving varied sentences ranging from three years of probation to life imprisonment. Notable among them is Lan’s husband, Eric Chu, a businessman from Hong Kong, who received a nine-year sentence, and her niece, who was sentenced to 17 years in prison.

Lan’s journey from a humble beginning in the central market of Ho Chi Minh City, where she traded cosmetics and helped her mother, to founding Van Thinh Phat in 1992—the same year she married—is a dramatic rise and fall narrative. Over the years, Lan became a significant figure in Vietnam’s financial sector, even playing a crucial role in earlier efforts to stabilize the now-troubled SCB.

From 2018 through late 2022, following her arrest, SCB faced severe financial instability, leading to a government-led bailout due to a run on its deposits. During this period, Lan was accused of illegally funneling substantial funds to fictitious companies, severely undermining the bank’s stability and public trust in governmental oversight.

Moreover, Lan’s actions included bribing officials to overlook her illicit activities, one such instance involved a $5.2 million payment to a senior central bank inspector, Do Thi Nhan, who has since been sentenced to life imprisonment.

The case, part of an operation dubbed “Blazing Furnace,” highlights the widespread nature of corruption in Vietnam, affecting various sectors, including the public healthcare system where bribes are reportedly commonplace for basic services. This sweeping crackdown has led to the prosecution or resignation of numerous state officials and high-profile business figures, underscoring a national crisis that the government is determined to address comprehensively.