Lawyers appeal for reconsideration of embezzlement charge against Truong My Lan

By Hai Duyen   March 20, 2024 | 07:42 pm PT
Lawyers for Van Thinh Phat chairwoman Truong My Lan request a court review of her embezzlement and bribery charges after prosecutors recommended a death sentence based on the allegations.

When Lan was invited to help restructure the Saigon Commercial Bank (SCB) in 2011 the bank was having colossal debts and was facing severe financial difficulty, lawyer Phan Trung Hoai told the People's Court of Ho Chi Minh City Wednesday.

Lan, who was going through a lot of stress because of the challenging task, convinced friends and family members to buy more than 65% of SCB and two other banks so she could merge them into a single entity, SCB.

Truong My Lans lawyers seen at the Peoples Court of Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Tung

Truong My Lan's lawyers seen at the People's Court of Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Tung

She then put in many personal and family assets into SCB and used them as collaterals to ensure the bank would not go bankrupt.

The assets were then managed by SCB leaders, not Lan, and to accuse her of embezzlement the prosecutors needed to prove that Lan had a position in the bank and the rights to manage those assets.

But Lan never signed any documents to approve loans and only gave the bank her assets to help it restructure.

Lan was accused of ordering subordinates to deliver VND108 trillion ($4.36 billion) and $14.7 million from SCB to the 127 Pasteur building, but because the assets of the bank were given by her, she was only "withdrawing money from the bank to pay for its debts".

Concerning the accusation of Lan bribing the head of the State Bank of Vietnam’s inspection team Do Thi Nhan $5.2 million in cash, there were conflicts between the testimonies of Lan, Nhan and the middleman Vo Tan Hoang Van, former SCB CEO, the lawyers claimed.

"Apart from Van’s testimony there is no evidence to prove that Lan ordered him to give $5.2 million to Nhan," said lawyer Phan Huy Thiep.

Truong My Lan seen at Peoples Court of Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Tung

Truong My Lan seen at People's Court of Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Tung

Problematic damage calculation

Lan was accused of causing a loss of VND498 trillion to SCB and had to pay back VND677 trillion in compensation (including interest).

But her lawyer Giang Hong Thanh said that there were issues in the valuation of SCB assets to determine the losses that Lan allegedly caused.

The appraisal company Hoang Quan had valuated many assets of SCB but the bank itself had disregarded some of Hoang Quan’s valuation.

Of 726 assets that were appraised by loans, SCB agreed with the valuation of 520 of them and disregarded the rest.

"Why did SCB disregard those assets?" Thanh asked, adding that because the damage calculation was done by deducting the value of the assets from the amount of money she was accused of stealing, a lower valuation means Lan had to be responsible for much more damage.

So far the prosecutors have only used Hoang Quan’s valuations to determine the damage even though the valuations are outdated, as a valuation of a property is only legitimate for six months. For other assets a valuation is only acceptable within three months.

If the assets are appraised correctly the damage that Lan allegedly caused would be much lower or even none at all, Thanh said.

Lan has also offered all the shares of her and family in SCB to the central bank and other assets to compensate for the losses, and therefore the court needs to take this into account, along with her "contribution to SCB", he added.

On March 19 the prosecutors proposed a death sentence for Van Thinh Phat chairwoman Truong My Lan for committing severe crime over a long period and causing irrevocable consequences.

From 2012 to 2022, Lan's group has more than 2,500 loans at SCB with a total disbursement of more than VND1 quadrillion ($44 billion), which accounts for 93% of the total credit that the bank has issued.

She is accused of causing a loss of VND498 trillion to the bank after the value of collaterals has been deducted.

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