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Truong My Lan, a prominent real estate tycoon in Vietnam, was sentenced to death in the country’s largest financial fraud case. She was charged with fraud amounting to $12.5 billion, nearly 3% of the country’s GDP in 2022. Lan, who chaired a company that developed luxury hotels and apartments, was arrested as part of Vietnam’s ongoing anti-corruption drive. This development is a significant event in the country’s efforts to crack down on corruption.

Lan’s rise to success began when she started helping her mother sell cosmetics in Ho Chi Minh City’s oldest market. She later established the Van Thinh Phat company in 1992, during Vietnam’s transition to a more market-oriented economy. VTP grew to become one of Vietnam’s wealthiest real estate firms, owning valuable properties in Ho Chi Minh City. Lan met her husband, Hong Kong investor Eric Chu Nap-kee, in 1992 and they have two daughters. The case against Lan highlights the far-reaching impact of corruption in the country.

The charges against Lan stem from her involvement in the 2011 merger of the Saigon Joint Commercial Bank (SCB) with two other lenders. She is accused of using the bank as a cash cow, illegally controlling it from 2012 to 2022. Lan allegedly used thousands of “ghost companies” in Vietnam and abroad to provide loans to herself and her associates, resulting in losses of $27 billion. She was also accused of paying bribes to government officials and violating banking regulations. The severity of the allegations led to Lan’s sentencing to death.

Lan’s arrest and trial are part of an ongoing anti-corruption campaign in Vietnam, which has intensified since 2022. High-profile individuals, including former President Vo Van Thuong, have resigned after being implicated in corruption scandals. The “Blazing Furnace” campaign, initiated by Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, aims to root out corruption at all levels of government and business. Lan’s case has raised concerns about the extent of corruption in other banks and businesses, impacting Vietnam’s economic outlook and causing unease among foreign investors.

The sentencing of Truong My Lan in Vietnam’s largest financial fraud case underscores the government’s commitment to combating corruption and promoting accountability. While death sentences are not uncommon in Vietnam, they are rare in financial crime cases, especially involving a high-profile figure like Lan. The case has highlighted the risks associated with corruption and its potential to erode public trust in political and business leadership. As Vietnam aims to attract foreign investment and position itself as a stable business environment, addressing corruption and promoting transparency will be crucial for its future economic growth.

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