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$44 Billion Gone: How Truong My Lan’s Decade of Deception Could Cost Her Life

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Vietnam is currently experiencing what many call the greatest bank fraud case of all time. The culprit is Truong My Lan, a property developer who’s been accused of stealing from one of Vietnam’s largest banks.

What’s worse is that she’s been illegally taking this cash for over 11 years. But fortunately, she’s been caught and will be facing the death penalty in 2024. But how much did she steal in total? $44 billion.

The Trial Of Truong My Lan

Truong My Lan is a 67-year-old property developer in Vietnam. She’s currently facing trial for defrauding one of the country’s biggest banks. What makes the case more interesting is that she didn’t take a few thousand dollars but precisely $44 billion.

Source: X/TNGeography

She stole for over 11 years until the authorities caught wind of her crime. Now she’s facing trial at the colonial-era courthouse in Ho Chi Minh City.

She Stole Through Fake Loans

The authorities revealed that she completed this “heist” through loans. Her company was involved when Saigon Joint Commercial Bank (SCB) and two other lenders merged in 2011.

Source: Freepik/

So, Lan used her influence to make the bank her “cash cow.” She illegally siphoned money through thousands of fake companies in Vietnam and abroad, and it all went straight to her pocket.

$27 Billion May Never Be Recovered

The scam continued until 2022 when she was caught. By then, she had taken out $44 billion from SCB. Some were used to boost her real estate business and bribe a former central officer who has also been sentenced to death.

Source: X/AJEnglish

Sadly, the bank was only able to recover less than half of the amount she stole. Her prosecutors further commented that there’s little to no hope of ever recovering the remaining $27 billion from Lan.

The Authorities Are Happy To Share Details Of The Case

What’s surprising is that the Vietnamese authorities are happy to share details about the case despite their history of secrecy. That’s why we now know that the court summoned around 2,700 people to testify against Lan’s grand crime.

Source: X/business

It’s also worth noting that there are 10 state prosecutors involved in this alongside 200 lawyers. Which makes it an undeniably massive case and possibly the biggest in recent history.

There’s A Ton Of Evidence…Six, Precisely

Thanks to details shared by the Vietnam authorities, we know how much evidence they have against Lan. Unlike most cases that can fit in a box or two, hers is in 104 boxes. That’s not all. These boxes combined weigh six tons. Wow!

Source: X/XHNews

But despite this mountain of evidence, Lan and her 85 defendants deny the charges. But that didn’t stop the hand of justice. If the court proceeds with its current plans, Lan and 13 others will be sentenced to death.

The Trial Is Part Of Nguyen Phu Trong’s Anti-Corruption Campaign

Vietnam’s Secretary-General, Nguyen Phu Trong, launched an anti-corruption campaign in 2016. One of his goals was to dig deeper into the country’s finances and plug any “leaks.”

Source: X/KristAmagora

Shortly, the Secretary-General identified some inconsistencies with Lan’s business. After some investigation, he discovered that she was the country’s biggest financial leak

Who Is Truong My Lan?

Truong My Lan was born in 1956 and started off selling cosmetics with her Chinese mother in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon. Later. her family started the Van Thinh Phat company in 1992 after Vietnam dropped its state-run economy for a market-oriented one.

Source: X/ankarayaziyor

Over the decade, the family business grew to become one of the country’s biggest real estate firms. By the 1990s, Lan had a vast portfolio of restaurants and hotels and was on her way to acquiring more.

Van Thinh Phat Owns Some Of Vietnam’s Most Valuable Property

As of 2024, Van Thinh Phat is linked to some of the country’s most valuable properties, especially downtown Ho Chi Minh. These include the 37-story Capital Place office building, the glittering 39-story Times Square Saigon, the five-star Windsor Plaza Hotel, and more.

Source: X/nagabolaberita

Ultimately, Lan was set for life. Her business had done so well that she even created enough wealth to last generations. The reason for her greed may never be known.

Why Lan’s Case Is Even More Problematic

Vietnam has a policy against people owning more than 5% of the shares in any bank. This ensures power is distributed properly and decisions are not one-sided. However, Lan found a way to beat the system.

Source: X/Tanmedia

She uses hundreds of Shell companies and people acting as her proxies to seize control of these banks. How many shares did she own? An investigation showed that Lan actually owned more than 90% of Saigon Commercial.

She Appointed Her Own Managers And Took All The Bank’s Money

Once Lan gained control of the bank, she started making changes. She used her influence to appoint her own people as managers, which made it much easier to get her questionable loans approved.

Source: X/BenHafsoun

By the time she was caught and prosecuted in 2022, she had already taken 93% of the bank’s lending. She basically sucked the bank dry.

Why The Scam Continued For Years

Many question how authorities didn’t know about the missing money on time. For context, Lan stole $44 billion, which converts to 956,246,331,040.00 Vietnamese dong. If you withdraw that money in cash, it would weigh over two tons.

Source: X/RFI_Vi

Well, her prosecutors revealed that she bribed generously to avoid scrutiny. One of these people receiving “hush” money was the former chief inspector at the central bank. He accepted around $5 million but is now also set to face the death penalty.

‘It Wasn’t A Secret’

Le Hong Hiep, who runs the Vietnam Studies Programme at the ISEAS, gave his comments. He said that Lan’s fraudulent activities weren’t a secret. Everyone in the market knew that her company was using SCB as its piggy bank.

Source: X/PiQSuite

He explained: “It was obvious that she had to get the money from somewhere. But then it is such a common practice. SCB is not the only bank that is used like this. So perhaps the government lost sight because there are so many similar cases in the market.”

What Happens Now?

The Vietnamese court gave its verdict on Thursday and sentenced Truong My Lan to death. This penalty is actually quite common for violent offenses and economic crimes, unlike in places like the US.

Source: X/ThienAnh619

The state plans to use lethal injection, just as it has done for hundreds of convicts in the past few years.

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Mary Scrantin

Written by Mary Scrantin

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