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Vietnam Real Estate Billionaire Sentenced To Death For Astonishingly Massive Bank Fraud

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Late last week, a Vietnamese court sentenced a 67-year-old female real estate billionaire named Truong My Lan to death. Her crime? Oh, nothing crazy. Just your run-of-the-mill $44 BILLION bank scam. If the execution is upheld, Truong My Lan will be one of just a handful of women in Vietnam’s history to receive the death penalty for a white-collar crime.

So what did she do? In what surely has to be the largest corruption case in history, Truong My Lan was convicted for her part in a fraud that stole the equivalent of 6% of Vietnam’s Gross Domestic Product. For comparison, US GDP in 2023 was $27.63 trillion. So this would be like if an American stole $1.64 trillion.

Vietnamese law is supposed to prevent an individual from owning more than 5% of a bank. However, prosecutors alleged that Lan actually owned 90% of a bank called Saigon Joint Stock Commercial Bank, thanks to hundreds of shell companies and friends and family proxies. With that overwhelming majority interest, Lan approved the bank lending out $44 billion worth of fraudulent loans, essentially to herself. Roughly 93% of all the loans made during that decade went to Lan. Along the way she paid millions of dollars in bribes to government officials.

In just one three-year period during that decade, she allegedly instructed her driver to make countless cash withdrawals from these loans. In total, the driver withdrew the equivalent of $4 BILLION USD! That $4 billion fortune alone would be enough to make Truong My Lan the second richest person in Vietnam.

STR/AFP via Getty Images

As for Lan, she maintained her innocence and said that her subordinates were actually responsible for running the scam, which has 85 other individuals also facing charges that include bribery and various banking law violations. In addition to the death penalty, Lan has been ordered to pay back $27 billion.

Lan’s embezzlement scheme is one of the largest in history, but it’s obviously still a surprise that she would receive the death penalty for her role in it. It’s all part of a nationwide crackdown on corruption in Vietnam that has resulted in convictions for other former officials and executives over the last few years. Her husband and niece also received lengthy prison sentences.

After her sentencing, Lan released a statement to the media:

“In my desperation, I thought of death…I am so angry that I was stupid enough to get involved in this very fierce business environment — the banking sector — which I have little knowledge of.”

It’s unclear what recourse Lan may have now, if any, to avoid execution, but a family member reportedly told the press she plans to appeal the verdict. It has also been posited that the government sentenced her to death with the hope that it would inspire Lan to give back some or all of the money she took.





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