Vietnam Real Estate Billionaire Sentenced To Death In $12 Billion Fraud Case 

Real estate billionaire Truong My Lan was sentenced to death in a court in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam for organizing the nation’s largest financial fraud case. The punishment is being regarded as a pivotal moment in a decadelong anti-corruption campaign from the Vietnamese business community.

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Truong My Lan is a real estate billionaire tycoon who was recently given the death sentence in Vietnam for orchestrating the country’s largest financial fraud case. The punishment is a major moment for those in the Vietnamese business community who have been campaigning for a larger focus to be placed on anti-corruption. 

According to the Associated Press, Lan has been convicted for fraud amounting to $12.5 billion, which is about 3% of Vietnam’s 2022 GDP. She’s also been convicted for illegally controlling a major bank and approving loans that resulted in $27 billion in losses.

This sentencing marks a major “turning point” in the ongoing campaign to combat corruption in Vietnam, according to Nguyen Khac Giang, an analyst at Singapore’s ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.

“It signals that the party’s commitment to a crackdown on corruption has … expanded.” 

According to Amnesty International, in Vietnam the death penalty is typically given for crimes like terrorism or murder. Even though Vietnam has one of the highest rates of capital punishment in the world, a death sentence for a financial crime is very rare. 

The Communist Party’s “Blazing Furnace” campaign began back in 2013, however, it wasn’t until 2018 that officials began seriously scanning the business sector of the nation. Since that point, several business owners have been arrested. Before Lan, one of the biggest arrests made was Trinh Van Quyet, former chair of FLC, a real estate company. FLC also owns Vietnam’s third largest airline.

Quyet was arrested in 2022 and his trial is likely to start soon. Lan’s sentencing was “an example” for future cases, according to Giang. 

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“Lan’s death sentence sent shockwaves across the Vietnamese business community, creating a sense of uncertainty about the future.”

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Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong is Vietnam’s top politician who is one of the biggest leaders in the anti-corruption campaign. Trong views corruption as a major threat that the party is facing and has promised that the campaign itself will “be a blazing furnace” where no one, regardless of status, will go unpunished. 

The real estate sector in Vietnam has also been on the decline. AP reported that an estimated 1,300 property firms withdrew from the market in 2023. Many high-rise buildings are currently empty in major cities.

Global demand and a reduction in public investment has also slowed down Vietnam’s economic growth down to 5.05% last year from 8.02% in 2022, according to government data. 

The public opinion regarding corruption in Vietnam is split. According to AP, an annual survey that took data from 20,000 people known as the Vietnam Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index proved this. 

The Index found that less and less people actually believe that the government is serious about combating corruption attempts. In 2023 especially, their confidence showed a major drop. 

Giang said that “these were now uncharted waters for Vietnam, making it impossible to predict what lay next. We haven’t really seen anything like this before.”