29 May 2024,   09:43
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Vietnamese billionaire sentenced to death for USD 44bn fraud

It was the most spectacular trial ever held in Vietnam, befitting one of the greatest bank frauds the world has ever seen, writes BBC.

Behind the stately yellow portico of the colonial-era courthouse in Ho Chi Minh City, a 67-year-old Vietnamese property developer was sentenced to death on Thursday for looting one of the country’s largest banks over a period of 11 years. It’s a rare verdict - she is one of very few women in Vietnam to be sentenced to death for a white collar crime.

The decision is a reflection of the dizzying scale of the fraud. Truong My Lan was convicted of taking out USD 44bn in loans from the Saigon Commercial Bank. The verdict requires her to return USD 27bn, a sum prosecutors said may never be recovered. Some believe the death penalty is the court"s way of trying to encourage her to return some of the missing billions.

The habitually secretive communist authorities were uncharacteristically forthright about this case, going into minute detail for the media. They said 2,700 people were summoned to testify, while 10 state prosecutors and around 200 lawyers were involved.

The evidence was in 104 boxes weighing a total of six tonnes. Eighty-five defendants were tried with Truong My Lan, who denied the charges.

Truong My Lan comes from a Sino-Vietnamese family in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon. It has long been the commercial engine of the Vietnamese economy, dating well back to its days as the anti-communist capital of South Vietnam, with a large, ethnic Chinese community.

She started as a market stall vendor, selling cosmetics with her mother, but began buying land and property after the Communist Party ushered in a period of economic reform, known as Doi Moi, in 1986. By the 1990s, she owned a large portfolio of hotels and restaurants.

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