Vietnamese Real Estate Tycoon on Trial for Embezzlement

The trial of a real estate tycoon accused of embezzling billions of dollars began in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Tuesday.

Prosecutors say Truong My Lan, the chairwoman of real estate development firm Van Thinh Phat, siphoned $12.5 billion from Saigon Joint Stock Commercial Bank between 2012 and 2022. Lan, who controlled a majority stake in SCB, allegedly embezzled the money by arranging fake loans to numerous shell companies.

Another 85 people are being prosecuted in connection with the case, including Lan’s husband, a wealthy Hong Kong businessman, and several former bank executives and government officials, including at least one ex-government official who allegedly received $5.2 million in bribes. Nearly 200 lawyers will be involved in the trial.

The scope of the fraud nearly equals 3% of Vietnam’s 2022 gross domestic product. Lan is facing the death penalty if convicted.

Lan’s arrest is part of the Vietnamese government’s anti-corruption drive known as Blazing Furnace, which has led to the arrests of thousands of government officials and business leaders in recent years, as well as the resignation of President Nguyen Xuan Phuc last year.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse.