Prosecutors seek permanent banishment for Van Thinh Phat chairwoman Truong My Lan

By Hai Duyen, Quoc Thang   March 18, 2024 | 07:25 pm PT
Prosecutors seek permanent banishment for Van Thinh Phat chairwoman Truong My Lan
Van Thinh Phat chairwoman Truong My Lan seen at the People's Court of Ho Chi Minh City on March 19, 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Tung
Prosecutors on Tuesday recommended that Van Thinh Phat chairwoman Truong My Lan should be given the hardest sentence and “ostracized from society forever” for a decade of stealing from Saigon Commercial Bank.

Lan, who is on trial for appropriating VND304 trillion ($12 billion) from Saigon Commercial Bank, took advantage of the government's plan to restructure it and two other ailing lenders, De Nhat and Vietnam Tin Nghia, by merging them.

She owned 91.5% stake in SCB and controlled and directed all its operations.

She appointed close people to key positions at the bank and established 1,000 shell companies to borrow from it. She also partnered with appraisal companies to falsely inflate the value of collateral, and bribed officials to cover her wrongdoing.

She paid Do Thi Nhan, head of an inspection team at the State Bank of Vietnam, a bribe of $5.2 million, and also bribed its other members.

"The criminal behaviors of Lan, her accomplices and the inspection team have infringed on the government's economic management, causing a loss of public trust, and therefore needs to be dealt with strictly."

Lan was the mastermind in the case and only put collateral into SCB so she could borrow money from it.

From 2012 to 2022 Lan's group took more than 2,500 loans at SCB worth VND1 quadrillion ($44 billion), or 93% of the total credit that the bank has issued.

She is accused of causing a loss of VND498 trillion to the bank.

The prosecutors said Lan committed crimes repeatedly over a long period with sophisticated methods and in an organized manner.

She was insincere during the trial, making evasive statements and blaming subordinates, and her criminal behaviors led to particularly severe consequences with no possibility of recovery.

"She therefore needs to be "ostracized from society forever," the prosecutors said, adding that they recommended the highest sentence for her.

They also recommended putting away for long the SCB leaders who helped Lan, including former chairmen Dinh Van Thanh and Bui Anh Dung, former CEO Vo Tan Hoang Van, former acting CEO Truong Khanh Hoang, former deputy CEO Tran Thi My Dung.

Thanh escaped before the official investigation began and was tried in absentia. He was charged with helping Lan cause a loss of VND99.67 trillion to SCB.

All defendants except Lan have admitted to their crimes and said that they only carried out Lan’s orders because of their complete trust in her plan to restructure SCB.

Lan, however, denied the allegations that she controlled SCB and used it as a financial instrument to fund her own company Van Thinh Phat's operations.

She claimed that she owned only 5% of the bank, not 91.5%, and by 2022 she and her two daughters owned 15% of shares.

The remaining shares were owned by her friends since she convinced them to buy up to 65% of the bank to ensure a successful merger.

She also denied the accusation that she selected people close to her and gave them big salaries and bonuses to control them. She said all loan approvals at SCB were done by its management, and she was not aware of the process.

She did not form 1,000 shell companies to borrow from the bank and only let some companies use her assets as collateral to apply for loans from the bank, she said. She said she did not partner with appraisal companies either.

She denied charges of stealing money from the bank. "I had many assets and money at the bank; why would I steal my own money?"

She denied ordering subordinates to give central bank head inspector Nhan $5.2 million in bribes.

Her Hong Kong husband Eric Chu is accused of helping her steal VND9.12 trillion from the bank.

He said he never knew what documents he signed meant due to the language barrier and only did so because his wife asked him.

Her niece Truong Hue Van, CEO of Van Thinh Phat, admitted to helping Lan steal VND1.1 trillion from SCB because of family loyalty.

Lan and 12 other defendants accused of embezzlement could face death as the highest sentence. Lower sentences are prison for life or 20 years.

During the trial Lan agreed to use family assets to compensate SCB’s losses but wanted them appraised afresh.

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