(Bloomberg) -- Vietnam police are seeking assistance from investors in an ongoing investigation into real estate firm Van Thinh Phat Holdings Group that allegedly defrauded and appropriated more than 30 trillion dong ($1.2 billion), according to a statement on the government’s website.
Some 42,000 investors lost money, according to the investigation, the statement said.
The Ministry of Public Security detained the company’s Chairwoman Truong My Lan last year for allegedly obtaining property through fraudulent means. The arrest of Lan and other company officials, who were believed to have connections with Saigon Commercial Bank, also known as SCB, led to a brief bank run on the lender.
In another case, police in September detained Vu Thi Thuy, chairwoman and director of Nhat Nam Real Estate Trading Investment JSC, for allegedly misappropriating assets, according to the government statement. Police say the company fraudulently collected nearly nine trillion dong from 20,000 individuals through more than 45,000 business cooperation contracts in 2020-2022.
Representatives for Van Thinh Phat were not available for comment outside of regular business hours. Lan couldn’t be reached for comment after her arrest. Representatives for Nhat Nam Real Estate Trading Investment and Thuy were unavailable for comment.
The investigations occur as the country’s regulators grapple with a property debt crisis that is weighing on the nation’s economy. Vietnam’s property sector woes raise risks for banks as real estate companies become less able to service debt, according to Moody’s Corp.
Privately-held Van Thinh Phat, which has held prime land in the nation’s commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City, also invests in financial services, according to its website last year.
The State Bank worked to restore to secure the bank’s operations, replacing its board and reassuring customers that their deposits were safe. The regulator on Sept. 22 announced it appointed Phan Dinh Dien, a former member of the board of directors for Vietnam Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, as SCB’s new chairman.
Police have said they were looking into Lan’s relationship to the issuance and trading of bonds of some companies where trillions of dong were allegedly appropriated in 2018 and 2019.
The public security ministry seeks assistance from affected investors into its investigation, according to the statement, which cited Maj. General Nguyen Van Thanh, deputy head of the Department for Investigation of Corruption and Economic Crimes.
Vietnam’s General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong has ordered officials to wrap up investigations into major cases, including that of Van Thinh Phat, by year’s end, according to the government’s website.
--With assistance from Mai Ngoc Chau.
(Updates the story with Nhat Nam Real Estate Trading Investment JSC in the fourth paragraph.)
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