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Chairwoman and 85 accomplices indicted in high-profile corruption case

Vietnam on Friday issued an indictment against the principal suspect and 85 alleged accomplices in the high-profile Saigon Joint Stock Commercial Bank embezzlement case, state media reported.

Van Thinh Phat Group’s Chairwoman Truong My Lan and her alleged accomplices are charged with accepting bribery, violating banking regulations and embezzlement.  

From Feb. 9, 2018, to Oct. 7, 2022, Lan directed the creation of nearly 920 bogus loan applications, appropriating more than 304,000 billion dong, or US$12.5 billion, from the bank, the indictment said. 

The case is considered to be one of the biggest corruption cases in Vietnam ever and the value of the known embezzled funds amounts to about 6% of Vietnam’s GDP.

The indictment said that from 2012 to October 2022, Lan acquired 85-91.5 percent of Saigon Joint Stock Commercial Bank, or SCB, and then controlled and manipulated the bank’s activities. 

She is accused of directing her subordinates to recruit personnel and appoint relatives and close associates to key SCB positions. 

She is also accused of establishing several SCB units dedicated to lending and disbursement at her request, establishing and using thousands of “ghost” companies and hiring multiple people to collude with leaders of many related businesses to commit crimes.

Lan’s accomplices allegedly colluded with many asset validation companies to inflate collateral values, creating a large number of fake loan applications to take money from SCB. 

They are also believed to have made plans to withdraw money, manipulate money flows after disbursement, sell bad debts and defer credit grants to reduce outstanding debts and bad debts and cover up their wrongdoings as well as bribing and influencing government officers to break the law. 

According to the Vietnam Supreme Procuracy, five former SCB leaders are on the run, including  Dinh Van Thanh, former chairman of SCB’s Board of Directors, who left the country before the case was filed; Chiem Minh Dung, the former SCB deputy director, who also fled abroad and is wanted; Tram Thich Ton, a member of SCB’s Board of Directors; Nguyen Thi Thu Suong, another former Chairwoman of SCB’s Board of Directors; and Nguyen Lam Anh Vu, a former SCB staff member.

Web of greed and deceit

The indictment also said that 15 former officers from the State Bank of Vietnam, three former officers from the government inspectorate, and a former officer of the State Audit of Vietnam were prosecuted for “embezzlement,” “accepting bribes,” “abusing their position of authority on official duty,” “dereliction of responsibility, causing serious consequences,” and “violating regulations on banking activities.”

The former government officers discovered many wrongdoings during their inspecting activities but let them happen. 

Do Thi Nhan, the former director of the Inspectorate and Supervision Department is accused of receiving bribes of$5.2 million, according to the indictment. 

According to the Vietnam Supreme Procuracy, Lan did not acknowledge her wrongdoing during the investigation, while 80 other defendants honestly testified and admitted their violations in compliance with the evidence and documents collected by the investigation security agency. 

Lan’s niece, Truong Hue Van, who is the director general of Windsor Property Management Group Corporation, was said to have paid back over 1,063 billion dong ($43.7 million). Meanwhile, Lan’s husband Chu Lap, the co-chairman of the board of directors of Times Square Investment Company, has returned 1 billion dong ($41,000). 

Former director Nhan returned $4.8 million of the $5.2 million she is accused of having received, in addition t10 savings books worth more than 10 billion dong $411,000.

RFA reported in November that experts have said that the SCB scandal is just the “tip of the iceberg” in terms of uncovering corruption in Vietnam.

Translated by Anna Vu. Edited by Eugene Whong and Malcolm Foster.