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The boss of a real estate giant sentenced to death in Vietnam in a fraud case

Photo: Thanh Tung VnExpress via Associated Press Truong My Lan was found guilty of corruption, embezzlement and violation of the banking law.

France Media Agency to Ho Chi Minh City

6:27 p.m.

  • Asia

The director of a real estate giant was sentenced to the death penalty in a fraud case whose damages were estimated by the prosecution at 25 billion euros in total, the biggest financial scandal in history. Vietnam.

The actions of Truong My Lan, boss of the Van Thinh Phat conglomerate, accused of defrauding Saigon Commercial Bank (SCB) funds for a decade, “eroded people's confidence in the management of the (Communist) Party and the State,” said the jury, according to state media, during the trial held in a court in Ho Chi Minh City (south).

Ms. Truong was found guilty of bribery, embezzlement and violation of banking law. The businesswoman denied her role and placed the blame on her subordinates.

During a trial that lasted about a month, Ms. Truong and 85 other defendants appeared to answer the questions and anger of thousands of aggrieved savers who lost their funds almost overnight.

The list of accused included former officials of the central bank, ex-members of the government as well as managers of the bank involved in the fraudulent scheme, the Saigon Commercial Bank (SCB), against a backdrop of anti-corruption purge orchestrated for several years by the communist power targeting the highest political and economic spheres.

The death penalty was only requested by the prosecutor against Ms. Truong, considered the mastermind of the operation.

“Little knowledge”

At the time of her last public speaking, during the hearings, she confessed to having thought about suicide. “In my despair, I thought about death,” she said, in comments reported by Tuoi Tre, a state-run newspaper.

“I'm so angry that I was stupid enough to get involved in such a difficult industry [banking] that I had little knowledge about,” she said. insured.

Truong My Lan is convicted of defrauding approximately 42,000 people between 2012 and 2022, via a bond arrangement transiting through SCB, more than 90% owned by her group, with the complicity of officials responsible for supervising the banking sector.

She was arrested in October, accused of having embezzled 304,000 billion dong, or 11.5 billion euros, which allegedly fueled her luxurious lifestyle and was used for corruption.

But prosecutors said Thursday that the total damage caused by the scam now stands at $27 billion, the equivalent of 6% of the country's GDP in 2023.< /p>

The trial revealed some schemes, such as a bribe of approximately seven million dollars in cash hidden in boxes of Styrofoam, a thermal insulator usually used for transporting fruits or fruits sea.

The recipient, a former manager responsible for inspection within the central bank, assured that she had refused the package, handed out by the former president of the SCB. The latter for his part claimed not to have taken it back after having given it, according to state media.

Prosecutors also reported more than a thousand properties confiscated from Ms. Truong.

Police device

The scale of the scandal pushed hundreds of people to demonstrate in the capital Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, in an unusual expression of collective anger tolerated in the communist country.

On Wednesday, a large police force was deployed in front of the headquarters of the central bank in Hanoi, the site of previous rallies.

Due to a lack of transparency and effective regulation, the Vietnamese banking system leaves the door open to powerful private actors who can impose their interests to the detriment of savers.

In recent years, the communist regime has accelerated its anti-corruption campaign. In the name of this policy, more than 4,400 people, including former business stars and deposed ministers, have been prosecuted in more than 1,700 cases since 2021.

The use of the death penalty is commonplace in Vietnam for drug cases, but remains rare for economic offenses or crimes.

Statistics on its application are classified as a state secret, but Amnesty International estimates that “numerous” executions take place each year, in the order of several dozen per year.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116