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Prosecutors seek death penalty for mastermind of Vietnam’s largest financial scam

VIETNAMESE prosecutors called for the death penalty to be handed to Truong My Lan, the mastermind of the Southeast Asian nation’s largest financial fraud on record, state media said.

Lan, the chairwoman of real estate developer Van Thinh Phat Holdings Group, faces a trial in the economic hub of Ho Chi Minh City on accusations of leading a scam that caused damages of $20 billion, or about 4.9% of Vietnam’s gross domestic product.

The trial, expected to run until the end of April, is part of a campaign against graft that the leader of the ruling Communist Party, Nguyen Phu Trong, has pledged for years to stamp out, although with few tangible results.

“Lan didn’t plead guilty and didn’t show remorse,” the Thanh Nien newspaper cited the prosecutors as saying while demanding the death penalty on the charge of embezzlement.

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“The consequences are extremely serious and irreparable, and therefore, there must be a strict punishment for Truong My Lan and remove her from the society,” it added.

A lawyer for Lan was not immediately available for comment on Tuesday.

Lan and her accomplices are accused of siphoning off more than 304 trillion dong ($12.46 billion) from Saigon Joint Stock Commercial Bank (SCB), which she effectively controlled through dozens of proxies, investigators say.

Prosecutors have also accused the group of causing damages to the tune of a further 193 trillion dong, more than 129 trillion dong of which consists of accumulated interest on the loans they took.

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That carried total financial damages in the case to 498 trillion dong ($20 billion), the report said.

From early 2018 through October 2022, when the state bailed out SCB after a run on its deposits, Lan appropriated large sums by arranging unlawful loans to shell companies, investigators say.

She is accused of bribing officials to ignore her activities, including paying an alleged $5.2 million to a senior central bank inspector, the investigators said.

Three independent auditing firms had committed violations in the SCB case, lawmaker Pham Van Hoa said on Monday, without identifying them, the government said.

The remark came in a question to Finance Minister Ho Duc Phoc, the government statement added.

Phoc faulted auditing in some recent criminal cases, adding that “intentional collusion and violations” by auditors had not been ruled out.

Top global firms, such as Ernst & Young and KPMG, did not flag concerns about the bank in their audits, public documents show.

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By The African Mirror

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