Billionaire Truong My Lan went from market vendor to real estate tycoon

Truong My Lan was given the terrifying sentence on Thursday 11 April.

Billionaire Truong My Lan death sentence
© Bloomberg/gettyimages
Billionaire Truong My Lan death sentence

We’ve already written about some of the craziest crimes reported over the years, and some of the most unbelievable stories from prison. Now, there’s a story that is particularly terrifying, and it involves a Vietnamese woman who climbed her way to the top and is now facing a death sentence for what it took to get her there.

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We’ve already written about the prisoner who died during his life sentence and tried to argue that meant he should walk free, and we’ve covered some of the ‘most disgusting’ things that happen in prison. Now, we’ll share the story of Truong My Lan with you - one of the richest women on earth who is currently facing a death sentence for her crimes.

Truong My Lan’s rise to the top

Truong My Lan faced a court in Ho Chi Minh City where she was found guilty of a huge amount of fraud. The scale of the crime is hard to get your head around, but the businesswoman was breaking the law over a period of 11 years, and the resulting money accounted for nearly three per cent of the country’s GDP in 2022.

We’ll get into the extent of her crimes, but first let’s take a look at her trajectory. Truong My Lan started off working at a market stall where she sold cosmetics with her mum. She started investing in real estate during a push for reform in Vietnam in 1986 known as Doi Moi.

Within a decade, she had amassed a large portfolio, including hotels and restaurants. By 2011, she was a well-known businesswoman and arranged the merger of three smaller banks into one larger one: Saigon Commercial Bank.

Truong My Lan

This is where her troubles trace back to as she hired her own people and ordered them to cover for her crimes. In case you need an example, you aren’t allowed by Vietnamese law to hold more than 5% of the shares of any bank, but Truong My Lan is thought to have owned more than 90% of Saigon Commercial through shell companies and people acting as proxies for her.

She sent her own shell companies loans, and allegedly bribed officials to turn a blind eye. All in all, her own loans are said to make up 93% of all the bank's lending.

Prosecutors said she once ordered her driver to take more than $4,000,000,000 (£2.3bn) in cash out of the bank and hide it in her basement. If that’s hard to visualise, Metro have helpfully explained that it must have weighed around 4,000 lb - as much as an empty shipping container.

The BBC suggests that her death sentence ‘is a reflection of the dizzying scale of the fraud’:

Truong My Lan was convicted of taking out $44bn (£35bn) in loans from the Saigon Commercial Bank.
The verdict requires her to return $27bn, a sum prosecutors said may never be recovered. Some believe the death penalty is the court's way of trying to encourage her to return some of the missing billions.

This trial has been the most publicised in the ‘Blazing Furnace’ anti-corruption campaign in the country.

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Sources used:

BBC: Truong My Lan: Vietnamese billionaire sentenced to death for $44bn fraud

Metro: Billionaire sentenced to death for £35,000,000,000 fraud

The crazy story behind this man's presumed death will have you speechless The crazy story behind this man's presumed death will have you speechless