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Scrutiny arises over convicted Vietnamese Tycoon’s property investments in Singapore

Truong My Lan, sentenced to death for a US$27 billion scam, built a property empire across Vietnam, HK and Singapore with allegedly embezzled funds. Concerns rise over Singapore’s vulnerability to illicit money, triggering a reevaluation of practices for foreign wealth.

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On 11 April, judges of the People’s Court of Ho Chi Minh City announced the ultimate penalty for the Vietnamese property tycoon Truong My Lan: sentenced to death over her involvement in one of the largest corruption cases in history with an estimated US$27 billion in damages.

The alleged fraud amount is almost three times that involving Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund 1MDB, which US officials have described as the world’s largest incident of kleptocracy.

Truong was found guilty of orchestrating a prolonged scheme to siphon funds from Saigon Commercial Bank (SCB) over ten years.

The victims include thousands of Vietnamese who entrusted their savings to SCB.

Some were reportedly enticed by  SCB bank staff to invest in bonds that Vietnamese authorities deemed illegal, constituting the nation’s most extensive fraud to date.

Initially accused of embezzling US$12.5 billion, prosecutors revealed during the trial that the total damages caused by the scam had ballooned to US$27 billion – an amount equivalent to 6% of the country’s 2023 gross domestic product (GDP).

Alleged misuse of funds spawns sprawling property empire across Vietnam, Hong Kong, and Singapore

Truong, along with her husband, Hong Kong billionaire Eric Chu Nap-kee, allegedly utilized the ill-gotten funds to establish a sprawling property empire spanning across Vietnam, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

The indictment detailed Truong’s collaboration with accomplices within her company, private investment firm An Dong Group, and at SCB, as well as within the government.

Together, they allegedly fabricated 916 false loan documents, granting access to VND 304 trillion (approximately 12.2 billion) in funds from SCB, resulting in losses totalling VND 129 trillion from 9 Feb 2018 to 7 October 2022, the date of Truong’s arrest.

Truong and her associates were accused of setting up shell companies, employing individuals to falsify loan documents, and colluding with appraisal agencies to inflate the value of collateral assets.

Moreover, they allegedly orchestrated fake loan applications to withdraw funds from SCB, while also bribing government officials and other authorities to cover their tracks.

News reports also revealed that since Truong was arrested in October 2022, her family, businesses, and associates have been rapidly divesting themselves of properties linked to the alleged illicit empire, both domestically and internationally.

For example, according to a January 2023 report by the Business Times (BT), an entity within the Viva Land Group, formerly known as VivaCapital, began listing assets such as the Robinson Point office building and Hotel Telegraph (formerly SO/ Singapore) for sale following Truong’s arrest in Vietnam.

The Viva Land Group, reportedly affiliated with Truong’s Van Thinh Phat Group, was highlighted in Mingtiandi, an outlet covering Asia’s real estate and outbound investment news.

The entity sold the Hotel Telegraph along Robinson Road for an estimated S$170 million to S$180 million in November 2023, incurring a loss of approximately S$70 million compared to its 2022 purchase price.

Truong My Lan previously led Viva Land in Ho Chi Minh City as part of her Van Thinh Phat Group until her incarceration for investor fraud.

Despite shared directors listed in public filings, representatives of Singapore’s Viva Land have denied any association between the two entities named Viva Land.

Viva Land’s official website is no longer accessible.

In liquidation

A search of the company profile on ACRA reveals that Viva Capital, formerly known as Viva Land (SG) Management & Development PTE LTD and Viva Land Management Pte Ltd, is undergoing liquidation.

According to a High Court Judgement in October 2023, a claimant applied for a winding-up order against Viva Capital (SG) Pte Ltd, identified as part of the Viva Land Group.

The claimant alleged that Viva Capital was unable to settle its debt, amounting to S$142,785.72 as of 23 June 2023.

The judge granted the claimant’s application for winding-up and ordered Viva Capital to cover the claimant’s costs.

Former CapitaLand executive assumed chairmanship at Ho Chi Minh City-based Viva Land upon its 2020 establishment

A LinkedIn check also revealed that Chen Lian Pang, a former CapitaLand executive, assumed the role of chairman at Ho Chi Minh City-based Viva Land upon its establishment in 2020.

Mr Chen is also registered as the sole director of Viva Land in Singapore.

Notably, he led Capitaland’s Vietnam business from 2013 through December 2021 before becoming chairman of Viva Land in August 2020, coinciding with the company’s inception.

A 2020 Mingtiandi report identified Viva Land as a British Virgin Islands-registered entity controlled by an investor from Vietnam.

The report detailed the acquisition of the 39 Robinson Road building from Tuan Sing Holdings, with the sale valued at S$500 million (US$371 million).

An article published in May 2022 by CEO Magazine described Eddie Lim as having spent 25 years at CapitaLand before assuming the role of CEO at Viva Land.

Chen, on the other hand, is recognized as a seasoned developer with over 40 years of experience in real estate investment and development.

A review of Viva Land’s Facebook fan page in 2021 also showcased both Mr. Chen and Mr. Lim, indicating their active involvement in the group.

Singapore Chamber of Commerce Vietnam mentioned that Viva Land is currently developing and managing more than 1,500 hectares of land and over 18,000 residential units including IFC One Saigon, Saigon Peninsula, Capital Place and many others.

Scrutiny arises over potential illicit money flow to Singapore following landmark S$3B money laundering case

Singapore’s longstanding focus on attracting the ultra-wealthy has fostered a robust finance industry, placing the nation among the world’s wealthiest.

The case has prompted a significant reevaluation of these practices amid concerns that illicit funds may be infiltrating legitimate businesses in Singapore. Worries have emerged regarding the potential risks associated with Singapore’s accessibility and convenience for foreign wealthy individuals.

For instance, in Singapore’s landmark S$3 billion money laundering case, all the accused of Fujian origin amassed staggering wealth, with 152 properties seized during Singapore police raids on 15 August 2023, conducted across various locations on the island.

In the aftermath of the case, Singapore’s real estate sector is under scrutiny for possible connections to money laundering, prompting the Council for Estate Agents (CEA) to launch investigations into several property agents.

Under guidelines from the CEA, engaging in property transactions while being aware or having reason to believe that the client is using proceeds from drug trafficking or criminal activities to purchase the property is illegal.

Convictions could lead to fines not exceeding S$500,000 or imprisonment for up to 10 years or both.

In June 2023, the Singapore government implemented a mandate requiring property developers to conduct background checks on buyers.

If suspicious money laundering activities or terrorism financing are identified, they are obligated to report these to the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD).

Singaporean authorities are also intensifying their scrutiny of the assets and family connections of foreign suspects involved in this high-profile case.

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“Billionaires create jobs” has become a real joke.Whoever advocate such aspirations should come clean and repent.So sad to witness such bad things continue to happen in our once Sunny Singapore.

Peeairpee don’t bother what money it is, as long as foreigners got money, they open Singapore leg very wide. That’s one not the first incident and there will be a lot more to come.

Fake news la. Foreigners with investments in Singapore will never commit crime because they come here to create jobs for Singaporeans. 61% of the previous voting citizens will tell you that. 🤣

World’s dirty money heaven is no other than this tiny red dot.

Those big exposed cases like 1MDB, Fujian gang, and this Vietnamese billionaire are but likely the tip of the big iceberg. How many others, big, medium or smaller have yet to be discovered or not discovered, we won’t know

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He said that he would like to have another 10 billionaires. There you have it.

its on public record.

All the criminals, scammers, money launderers, fraudsters, and crooked politicians all want to park their money here huh? And be protected as long as they pay huh? And even in worst case scenario, their own countries start to go after them, just surrender 90% to our government and go off free with 10% to keep huh? All the while making things here more and more expensive! We Singaporeans are literally drowning in debt just to feed our kids!!!

Should have learnt from her “10 fujian brothers”…
Get sg pr or citizenship…open sg branch family offices.
Then if & when she gets caught , …only kena some ridiculous months of jail term only.. .
Waiting to see what types of money launderers show their faces here @ Fantasy Island next….the only passport needed is to park as much mil$ or bil$ ..
Shanmugam & co should be covering their face in shame …cuz many of us already are..ashamed of this money faced gov.

Last edited 1 month ago by W.A.J.

I personally think that the monies that have flown in are mostly from money laundering, stolen funds like 1MDB or tax evaders by looking at the investment returns on properties. Those who have worked for their monies or the traditional wealthy will not enter the Singapore market as it is a risk when the fundamentals of investment are no longer present. So though our govt. tries hard to cover their knowledge on fund transfers into Singapore and claims it to be from family offices etc, we can expect more claims from other govts. that stolen monies are parked here. We… Read more »

Not surprising that these bil$ crooks had their dirty fingers in the SG pie.
What happened to the background checks?
The “checkers” may have had their hands in the till as well …closed one eye ..??

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