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Who is Truong My Lan? From market stall to Vietnam’s biggest fraud case, the rise and fall of an alleged scam mastermind

Born in 1956 to a modest family, Lan was only able to finish high school before joining her mother, a Chinese businesswoman, selling cosmetics at Ben Thanh Market, the oldest market in Ho Chi Minh City.

Her mother steadily accumulated assets, supporting Lan financially. But Lan’s fortunes catapulted in 1992 when she met her future husband, Eric Chu Nap-kee, a Hong Kong investor who came to Vietnam as the communist government opened up the economy to outside investment.


Vietnam’s largest financial fraud case begins, property tycoon faces death penalty

Lan was not often photographed at events and before the 67-year-old businesswoman’s court appearance, there was scant information on her private life and companies.

Those early business years yielded few clues to the motivation for the alleged US$12 billion fraud that followed, worth the equivalent of nearly 3 per cent of Vietnam’s 2023 US$426 billion GDP. Lan is accused of using nominee companies in and outside Vietnam to effectively lend herself hundreds of millions of dollars from Vietnam’s megabank Saigon Commercial Bank.

Prosecutors have accused Lan of committing “organised crimes” with “serious consequences” and she faces the maximum death penalty, according to state media. The first part of her trial is set to end in April.

Lan has for years been a central figure in Vietnam’s financial world.

She orchestrated the merger of troubled SCB with two lenders in 2011 in a plan coordinated with the State Bank of Vietnam, the country’s central bank. Since then, SCB quickly became one of the largest commercial banks by assets in Vietnam.

But revelations in the court case against her had gripped Vietnam and shocked the world.

Lan, who became the chairwoman of property giant the Van