HCMC court to try $12.4B Van Thinh Phat fraud case over two months

By Hai Duyen   February 16, 2024 | 07:08 am PT
HCMC court to try $12.4B Van Thinh Phat fraud case over two months
Van Thinh phat chairwoman Truong My Lan. Photo courtesy of Van Thinh Phat
The People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City will begin trial of Truong My Lan and 85 other people on charges including stealing VND304 trillion ($12.39 billion) from Saigon Commercial Bank on March 5.

The trial is expected to extend over a two-month period. Lan, chairwoman of property developer Van Thinh Phat, has been charged with bribery, violating bank regulations and embezzlement.

Eighty-five other people have been charged with similar crimes, along with "abuse of power and position while performing official duties" and "lack of responsibility causing serious consequences."

The accused include 45 former leaders of SCB, 15 former State Bank of Vietnam officers, three Government Inspectorate officers, one former officer from the State Audit Office.

The list also contains five fugitive former SCB leaders who have gone into hiding.SCB is the victim in the trial against Lan and her accomplices.

Nearly two hundred lawyers will participate in the trial, and five of them will defend Lan.Most of the accused have been moved from Hanoi to a prison in Ho Chi Minh City’s Cu Chi District in preparation for the trial over the last two months.

HCMC authorities have placed six tons of documents related to the case in a storage space for lawyers to examine.

Prosecutors said in 2011, Lan acquired three private banks to merge into SCB, which she used as though it were her own private bank in order to finance what was actually her own company – property developer Van Thinh Phat and its ecosystem.

Although Lan did not hold direct executive power at Saigon Commercial Joint Stock Bank (SCB), she owned 91.5% of the lender’s shares through other individuals.

She directed SCB leaders to coordinate with key officials at Van Thinh Phat to withdraw the bank's money via fake loan applications.

Over a period of many years, Lan instructed her accomplices time and time again to disburse the money first and complete the paperwork later.

From 2012 to 2022, Lan's inner circle took more than 2,500 loans at SCB, with a total disbursement of more than VND1 quadrillion ($44 billion), accounting for 93% of the lender’s total issued credit. The remaining 7% was lent to regular customers.

The sum is equal to 10.7% of Vietnam’s GDP in 2022 , which totaled $409 billion. As of 2022, Lan was responsible for 1,300 outstanding unpaid loans at the bank, which were worth a total of VND677 trillion. The loans were categorized as "unable to collect."

Lan directed SCB officials to disburse the loans to her companies, and she then withdrew them in cash to prevent their origins from being traced.

Between February 2018 and October 2022, she made 916 loan applications at the bank for a total VND545 trillion and appropriated VND304 trillion she was granted for herself. The loans carry a combined unpaid interest of VND130 trillion.

Lan’s activities caused losses of VND64.6 trillion to the bank, prosecutors said, and they have also accused her of paying bribes to conceal the bank’s financial situation. She allegedly paid the head of the central bank’s department of inspection and supervision, Do Thi Nhan, $5.2 million in bribes.

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