• Saturday, May 18, 2024

ASIA

Vietnam tycoon gets death sentence over £21b corruption

The scam resulted in damages totalling £21 billion, which is roughly equivalent to 6 per cent of Vietnam’s 2023 GDP.

Since 2021, Vietnam’s corruption crackdown has led to the indictment of over 4,400 people in more than 1,700 graft cases. (Photo credit: Getty images)

By: vibhuti pathak

TRUONG My Lan, a prominent Vietnamese property tycoon and chair of major developer Van Thinh Phat, has been sentenced to death in a large-scale corruption case that caused an estimated £21 billion in damages.

A panel of three jurors and two judges in Ho Chi Minh City found Lan guilty of swindling cash from Saigon Commercial Bank (SCB) over a decade, dismissing all defence arguments.

The court stated that Lan’s actions “eroded people’s trust in the leadership of the (Communist) Party and state.” Lan embezzled £9.96 billion in corruption, but the total damages caused by the scam amounted to £21 billion, equivalent to around 6 per cent of Vietnam’s 2023 GDP. The court ordered Lan, 67, to pay nearly the entire amount in compensation.

The five-week trial concluded with sentences for 85 other individuals, including charges of bribery, abuse of power, and banking law violations. Four received life imprisonment, while others were given jail terms ranging from 20 years to three years suspended. Lan’s husband, Hong Kong billionaire Eric Chu Nap Kee, received a nine-year sentence.

Lan’s arrest in October 2022 sparked protests in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, an unusual occurrence in the one-party communist state. Police identified around 42,000 victims of the corruption scandal, which shocked the Southeast Asian country.

Nga, a 67-year-old Hanoi resident, expressed her disappointment with the death sentence, stating she hoped for life imprisonment so Lan could witness the suffering caused to ordinary people. Nga has been unable to retrieve the £95,560 she invested with SCB.

Lan was accused of setting up fake loan applications to withdraw money from SCB, where she held a 90 per cent stake. Police claim the scam’s victims are SCB bondholders who have been unable to withdraw their funds since Lan’s arrest.

The trial revealed the largest bribe ever recorded in Vietnam: £4.1 million allegedly given by Lan and some SCB bankers to state officials to hide the bank’s financial troubles. Do Thi Nhan, the former head of the State Bank of Vietnam’s inspection team, received a life sentence for receiving bribes.

Since 2021, Vietnam’s corruption crackdown has seen more than 4,400 people indicted in over 1,700 graft cases. In a related development, Do Anh Dung, head of the Tan Hoang Minh group, was sentenced to eight years in prison last month for his role in a £283 million bond scam.

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