Billionaire businesswoman sentenced to death for embezzling $12 billion

Vietnamese property tycoon, Truong My Lan, is expected to appeal the court's verdict [STR/AFP via Getty Images]

A Vietnamese court on Thursday sentenced Truong My Lan, the head of a real estate giant, to death in a fraud case totaling $12 billion.

This case is considered the largest financial scandal in the country's history.

Truong My Lan, head of the management board of developer, Van Tchin Fat Holdings Group (VTP), was accused of bribery, violating banking regulations and embezzling $12 billion, the equivalent of almost 3% of Vietnam's GDP in 2022, which it obtained by taking de facto control - through various entities - over Saigon Joint Stock Commercial Bank (SCB), the country's largest bank in terms of asset value, between 2018 and 2022.

The actions of Lan, 68, "have undermined people's trust in the leadership of the (communist) party and the state," a jury quoted by state media said during the trial, which took place in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon.

Lan denied the allegations against her and blamed her subordinates. In her last words in court last week, she said she had had suicidal thoughts. "I am so angry that I was stupid enough to get dragged into this very cut-throat business environment, the banking sector, which I have little knowledge of," Lan said, quoted by state media.

A member of her family told Reuters before the verdict was announced that Lan would appeal against the sentence.

The trial is part of a wide-ranging anti-corruption campaign launched by the Secretary General of the Communist Party of Vietnam, Nguyen Phu Trong. As a result, over nearly 4,500 thousand high-ranking people were arrested or resigned from their positions; among them is former president, Vo Van Thuong.

The use of the death penalty is common in Vietnam in drug cases, but remains rare in economic crimes.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC), over 100 people were sentenced to death in Vietnam in 2022. Since 2013, the death penalty in this country has been carried out by lethal injection; previously, convicts were shot by firing squad.


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