"Vietnamese billionaire": Who is Truong Mi Lan, who was sentenced to death?

A court in Vietnam today sentenced Truong Mi Lan to death for her role in a $12.5 billion financial fraud, the country's biggest ever fraud, Vietnamese state media reported

by Sededin Dedovic
"Vietnamese billionaire": Who is Truong Mi Lan, who was sentenced to death?
© VẤN ĐỀ HÔM NAY / Youtube channel

Vietnam's justice system shook the nation today as Truong Mi Lan was handed the maximum sentence, facing death for orchestrating a colossal financial fraud totaling a staggering $12.5 billion. A high sentence was expected, but a small number of people also expected the death penalty.

The ruling marks a turning point in the country's legal history, heralding the most significant fraud case to date, according to Vietnamese state media. The trial, which began on March 5, ended abruptly, bringing a dramatic outcome sooner than expected.

It marks a significant victory in the ongoing fight against corruption, a pledge long championed by the leader of the ruling Communist Party, Nguyen Phu Trong, as Reuters pointed out. Reports from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) highlighted the severity of the sentence handed down to 67-year-old Truong Mi Lan, attributing it to her key role in robbing one of Vietnam's leading financial institutions over an 11-year period.

"The decision reflects the dizzying scale of the fraud. Truong Mi Lan was convicted of taking $44 billion in loans from the Saigon Commercial Bank. The ruling requires her to pay back $27 billion, an amount prosecutors say may never be recovered," the BBC reports.

The media house further states that the death penalty is believed to be a way for the court to pressure her to help locate the missing billions.

A court in Vietnam today sentenced Truong Mi Lan to death for her role in a $12.5 billion financial fraud© VẤN ĐỀ HÔM NAy / YOutube channel

The normally secretive Communist authorities were unusually open about the case, detailing it to the media.

They said that 2,700 people were called to testify, including 10 state prosecutors and about 200 lawyers. This is proof of how important this case is to them, and they probably won't execute Mi Lan just like that until they try all methods to get the money back.

The evidentiary weight was considerable, comprising 104 boxes, weighing a total of six tons. Regardless, the defendant constantly repeated that she was not guilty, that she was simply bothering someone and that this was the reason why the government was persecuting her.

The trial netted 75 defendants along with Truong Mi Lan, and interestingly, almost all of them denied the charges except the relative of the accused, Truong Hue Van.

Who is Truong Mi Lan?

Truong Mi Lan, also known as Truong Muoi, has a complex background.

Born in Saigon in 1956, she is of Chinese descent and belongs to one of the most powerful and influential Vietnamese families. Even without this, her family was one of the worst in Vietnam. She stood out as the founder of the Van Thinh Phat Group, a real estate conglomerate respected for its extensive development projects.

Her marriage links her to Eric Chu Nap Kee, a prominent figure in Hong Kong's real estate sector. Namely, both her husband and her niece, Truong Hue Van, 34, who works as an executive at a property management firm, were embroiled in legal proceedings earlier this year.

A court in Vietnam today sentenced Truong Mi Lan to death for her role in a $12.5 billion financial fraud© VẤN ĐỀ HÔM NAY / Youtube channel

Truong Hue Van admitted to orchestrating the establishment of 52 shell companies and four conventional companies to secure 155 loans from Saigon Commercial Bank.

The consequences of these criminal activities reverberate throughout Vietnamese society, with implications particularly dire for women, as Deutsche Welle highlighted. Vietnam is currently struggling with a demographic imbalance, with an excess of 1.2 million boys over girls between the ages of zero and 19, according to the 2019 census.

This disparity creates social pressures, fundamentally changing traditional marriage dynamics. In the past, parents' concerns were focused on unmarried daughters, but today the plight of unmarried sons is at the fore. This demographic change underscores broader societal challenges, increasing the urgency of systemic reforms.

The gender imbalance stems from multiple factors, including deep-rooted cultural preferences for male offspring and widespread prenatal gender screening. In addition, Vietnam's historical adoption of the two-child policy exacerbates gender disparities, fostering societal expectations that favor sons over daughters.

Consequently, women struggle with increased vulnerability, becoming vulnerable to forced marriage, human trafficking and various forms of exploitation. These dynamics underscore the urgency for comprehensive interventions that include legislative reforms, educational initiatives, and strong social protection programs.

Vietnam has taken steps towards gender equality, passing laws and launching national strategies to address disparities. However, systemic challenges remain, requiring concerted efforts to remove entrenched patriarchal norms and foster a more just society.

While progress is ongoing, sustained momentum is imperative to effect transformative change. Demographic changes underscore the urgency of proactive measures to correct gender imbalances and mitigate the social consequences of entrenched prejudices. Only through comprehensive reforms can Vietnam pave the way to a more just and inclusive society.