Vietnam real estate giant nearing $12.5B embezzlement trial

The trial date is looming for the largest alleged financial frauds in the history of Vietnam.

The trial of Vietnamese real estate mogul Truong My Lan is coming up next month, VOA reported. Lan, along with nearly 100 alleged accomplices, is accused of embezzling $12.5 billion from Saigon Joint Stock Commercial Bank (SCB).

Lan was arrested in October 2022 and charged with bribery, banking regulation violations and embezzlement. Lan faces between 20 years to life in prison if convicted. She could even be sentenced to death.

In 2011, Lan acquired three private banks and merged them into SCB. She allegedly used SCB to finance her real estate firm, Van Thinh Phat, taking out bad loans for thousands of affiliates of the firm. Lan owned 91.5 percent of the bank, according to an indictment, despite not holding an official position there.

Lan allegedly bribed all 24 central bank officers tasked with inspecting SCB. Those who allegedly accepted those payments falsified records regarding its debt. The former head of the state bank was among those officials, accused of accepting more than $5 million in bribes.

About 42,000 people lost money in the alleged scheme, according to authorities. Many have struggled to recover their money, costing some their life savings. What the authorities do manage to recover will be considered evidence in the case and ultimately returned to rightful owners.

The staggering size of the case has forced extra security precautions at a courthouse in Ho Chi Minh City, where security cameras and fire safety equipment are being installed to protect thousands of files weighing a combined six tons.

The case is part of an anti-corruption initiative being helmed by the country’s general secretary. Experts view the initiative as vital to keeping the Communist Party’s legitimacy intact. An activist told VOA that the scandal creates a ‘loss of confidence in the financial system and political system.”

Holden Walter-Warner

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