Billionaire sentenced to death for looting $44bn

A Vietnamese billionaire, Truong My Lan, has been sentenced to death for looting one of the Vietnam’s largest banks over a period of 11 years.

It was the most spectacular trial ever held in Vietnam, befitting one of the greatest bank frauds the world has ever seen.

Truong My Lan was sentenced at the stately yellow portico of the colonial-era courthouse in Ho Chi Minh City.

The 67-year-old Vietnamese property developer was sentenced to death on Thursday is one of very few women in Vietnam to be sentenced to death for a white collar crime.

According to BBC, the decision is a reflection of the dizzying scale of the fraud.

Truong My Lan was convicted of taking out $44 billion (£35 billion) in loans from the Saigon Commercial Bank.

The verdict requires her to return $27 billion, a sum prosecutors said may never be retrieved. Some believe the death penalty is the court’s way of trying to encourage her to return some of the missing billions.

The habitually secretive communist authorities were uncharacteristically forthright about this case, going into minute detail for the media.

BBC reported that about 2,700 people were summoned to testify, while 10 state prosecutors and around 200 lawyers were involved.

The evidence was in 104 boxes weighing a total of six tonnes, while saying 85 defendants were tried with Truong My Lan, who denied the charges.

“There has never been a show trial like this, I think, in the communist era,” said David Brown, a retired US state department official with long experience in Vietnam. “There has certainly been nothing on this scale.”

The trial was the most dramatic chapter so far in the “Blazing Furnaces” anti-corruption campaign led by the Communist Party Secretary-General, Nguyen Phu Trong.