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Vietnamese property tycoon given death sentence in $12B fraud case

A court in Vietnam on Thursday ordered the death penalty for a real estate tycoon found guilty in a financial fraud case totalling more than $12 billion US.

Convicted woman ordered to pay back more than $27 billion US

A woman in court in Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam.

A court in Vietnam on Thursday ordered the death penalty for a real estate tycoon found guilty in a financial fraud case totalling more than $12 billion US.

Vietnamese state media called it the country's largest-ever case of financial fraud.

The conviction of Truong My Lan came amid a government anti-corruption crackdown by Communist Party general secretary Nguyen Phu Trong.

Lan started off selling cosmetics in a market stall with her mother in Ho Chi Minh City. When Vietnam liberalized its economy, she moved into property, buying hotels and restaurants.

Her company, Van Thinh Phat, eventually came to own some of the most valuable downtown properties in Ho Chi Minh City.

In 2011, she arranged the merger of Saigon Joint Commercial Bank, or SCB, with two other banks.

Shell companies

According to government documents, she illegally controlled SCB between 2012 to 2022, and used thousands of shell companies in Vietnam and abroad to arrange loans to herself and her allies.

Lan also bribed officials to conceal her financial dealings. A former official with Vietnam's central bank official was sentenced to life in prison on Thursday taking more than $5 million in bribes.

The verdict handed down Thursday requires Lan to pay back more than $27 billion.

A lawyer for Lan says they plan to appeal the court's decision.

Corruption crackdown

More than 80 other people involved in the case were also convicted. They received sentences that range from life imprisonment to three years of probation. Lan's husband received a nine-year jail sentence, while her niece was handed a 17-year sentence.

"There has never been a show trial like this, I think, in the Communist era," said David Brown, a retired U.S. State Department official, according to BBC. "There has certainly been nothing on this scale."

The anti-corruption crackdown has led to the resignations of two Vietnamese presidents and two deputy prime ministers.

with files from The Associated Press

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