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Vietnamese broker gets 18 years for defrauding Australian investor of $3.2mn

Vietnamese broker gets 18 years for defrauding Australian investor of $3.2mn

Thursday, April 18, 2024, 13:22 GMT+7
Vietnamese broker gets 18 years for defrauding Australian investor of $3.2mn
Defendant Truong Thi Kim Soan is seen at her trial at the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court on April 16, 2024. Photo: Khac Hieu / Tuoi Tre

A court in Vietnam has sentenced an investment broker to 18 years in prison for swindling US$3.2 million from an Australian businessman after seducing him to purchase a titan mine in Binh Thuan Province, south-central Vietnam.

Truong Thi Kim Soan, 50, who was a mining investment broker and owner of many businesses in Vietnam, received the jail term from the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court on Wednesday on charges of ‘fraudulent appropriation of assets.’ 

Soan, once a real estate tycoon in southern Vietnam, was arrested in August 2021, nearly a year after an Australian businessman, John Koon, accused her of defrauding him of a total of $3.2 million.

After some joint dealings related to mines and shares at companies since 2010, Soan in April 2013 lured Koon to buy a 360-hectare Sao Mai titan mine owned by Sao Mai Joint Stock Company (SACO) in Binh Thuan, according to the indictment. 

Soan told Koon that the mine had been granted a permit for exploration, had large reserves and was expected to generate high profits.

She suggested with Koon that she would negotiate on his behalf with the mine’s owner to buy the mine to ease relevant administrative procedures since she was Vietnamese.

The woman also said she would buy shares from SACO and then transfer them to Koon.

After the foreign agreed to such arrangements, Soan asked him to transfer to her money that would be spent on obtaining a mining license, exploration drilling and other expenses.    

In June 2013, Koon transferred $1.6 million to Soan’s bank account and Soan later set up a company named Thien Binh and used its legal status to buy 100 percent of shares of SACO.

Soan then hired a law firm to set up documents that showed Koon was the owner of 60 percent of the shares she had bought from SACO, and urged the foreigner to continue transferring money to her.  

The man believed in Soan and kept wiring money to her, bringing the total amount he transferred to her to $3.2 million.

The woman later signed contracts to assign all the shares acquired from SACO to others without Koon’s knowing and without repaying money to him. 

Koon told the court that he was completely dependent on Soan during the dealings related to acquiring Sao Mai’s shares since he could not speak Vietnamese. 

He stressed that Soan forged signatures of relevant parties to sell all his shares to others without asking his opinion, Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper reported. 

At court, Soan rejected the indictment and retracted her previous testimonies to investigators, insisting that she was innocent.

She claimed that the $3.2 million had been transferred by three foreign companies as support for her, not Koon’s money. 

Asked by the court why she previously pleaded guilty of appropriating the amount from Koon, Soan replied that she did so with an attempt to be set out on bail but she later failed, according to Phap Luat Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh (Ho Chi Minh City Law) newspaper. 

However, the court affirmed that it had enough evidence to prove Soan’s offense and added that she had been not sincere in her statements at court.

The trial panel commented that Soan intentionally committed the swindle to appropriate the plaintiff's property, and showed disregard for the law.

“The defendant’s acts were particularly serious, causing bad public opinion and affecting honest businesses. Therefore, there needs to be an appropriate penalty for her as a deterrence,” the presiding judge concluded.

The court also judged that Soan was liable to repay Koon $3.2 million, which would be deducted from VND20 billion ($788,000) that had been handed in by Soan’s family to the investigation agency’s account as part of compensation.

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Vinh Tho - Tuyet Mai - Khac Hieu / Tuoi Tre News


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