VTP’s Truong My Land linked to Viva Land, CK Asset

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One of Viva Lands bought So Singapore Hotel in May

A Vietnamese tycoon linked to Singapore’s Viva Land, which partnered with Li Ka-Shing’s CK Asset, was arrested by police in Ho Chi Minh City on Saturday for allegedly defrauding investors of billions of Vietnamese dong. (VND 1 trillion equals approximately $41 million).

Truong My Lan, founder and chairman of the private investment company Van Thinh Phat Group Joint Stock Company (VTP), along with three associates, are accused of illegally issuing financial instruments and fraudulently collecting funds from investors in 2018 to 2019, the country’s Ministry of Public Affairs and Security said in a statement on Saturday.

A report released today by Thanh Nien, a news publication controlled by the youth wing of Vietnam’s Communist Party, identifies Van Thinh Phat, who controls a portfolio of hotels, shopping malls, apartments and offices focused on on Ho Chi Minh City, such as the parent company of local real estate company Viva Land Management & Development JSC, which shares management with Viva Land Group Holdings in Singapore, a company that has pursued a series of significant acquisitions in the city of the Lion in May this year with his 240 million Singapore dollar ($173 million) raise from the So Hotel/Singapore at Raffles Place.

While representatives of Viva Land in Singapore denied any connection with Viva Land in Vietnam and with Van Thinh Phat, former CapitaLand executive Lian Pang Chen joined HCMC-based Viva Land as chairman during its founding in 2020, and also serves as an advisor and director of Viva Land in Singapore, according to public records seen by Mingtiandi. During Chen’s tenure, Vietnam’s Viva Land operation acquired a pair of HCMC projects from Truong’s empire.

Vivas ‘unbound’ shares leadership

In response to earlier inquiries from Mingtiandi, representatives of Singapore-based Viva Land Group said the company was not related to Viva Land in Vietnam and did not share any ownership with the company.

VTP’s Truong My Lan (Image: Ministry of Public Security DSRV)

However, the two entities of Viva Land count among their leaders Lian Pang Chen, former CEO of CapitaLand Vietnam. Chen, who led Capitaland’s business in Vietnam from 2013 to December 2021, according to his LinkedIn profile, also became chairman of Viva Land in August 2020, the same year the company was established.

Public records also show Chen, who spent 25 years at CapitaLand Group and its predecessors, as an advisor and director of Viva Land in Singapore, where Alfred Ong, who spent 24 years at CapitaLand’s Ascott residential division, was appointed general manager from April this year.

Eddie Lim, who is managing director of the Vietnam-based entity, spent 14 years in the Ascott division of CapitaLand and nearly a decade overseeing the group’s retail ventures.

While industry sources in Singapore have suggested that Truong is the ultimate controller of Viva Land in the city, company representatives have denied such connections.

Since VTP’s Truong’s arrest, all details of Viva Land’s leadership have been removed from the company’s website.

Ownership disputes

The same representatives of Viva Land in Singapore also identified the company as the actual buyer of the SO/Singapore Hotel and Robinson Point office tower in Singapore, as well as Capital Place in Hanoi, despite earlier statements that Viva Land Vietnam had purchased the office. tower near West Lake.

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Truong with husband Eric Chu in happier times

When Viva Land purchased Capital Place from CapitaLand in January this year for $550 million, a statement from the Vietnamese entity identified Viva Land Management & Development JSC as the buyer. However, representatives of Viva Land in Singapore now say the previous statement was incorrect.

Although Van Thinh Phat has never publicly claimed ownership of Viva Land in Vietnam, the real estate investment firm has purchased two major properties from VTP during its two-year existence.

At the end of 2021, Viva Land purchased Saigon One Tower, an abandoned project in District 1 of Saigon from VTP, and later renamed the building, which is valued at VND 5 trillion, to IFC One Tower. After being half-completed since 2011, the mixed-use complex is now expected to be completed next year.

Viva Land then acquired the Spirit of Saigon twin towers project near Ben Thanh market, a development estimated at VND 12 trillion, from investors with ties to VTP entities.

Since Truong’s arrest, all project and portfolio information has been removed from the Viva Land website, which now only consists of a homepage.

Government crackdown

Truong Hue Van, 34, managing director of Windsor Property Management Group JSC, which police have linked to Truong and VTP, was arrested along with Truong over the weekend; and Ho Buu Phuong, 50, former chairman of Hanoi-based financial services provider Tan Viet Securities JSC, who previously worked at VTP; and Nguyen Phuong Hong, 38, an assistant at VTP.

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CK Asset’s Justin Chiu appearing at an event with VTP earlier this year

“Currently, the investigation bureau of the Ministry of Public Security is investigating and clarifying the defendant’s criminal acts, expanding the investigation into the case and recovering the assets,” the police statement said.

Windsor Property Management is one of three companies, along with Viva Land and Sunny World Group, which are listed on the VTP website as partners of the company.

VTP reportedly issued at least VND 10 trillion of national high yield bonds between June 2021 and February 2022 despite reported losses and zero revenue in 2019 and 2020. Established as a restaurant and hotel operator in 1991 before moving into real estate in recent years, VTP reportedly more than doubled its registered capital from VND6 trillion to VND13 billion in 2019, and reported total assets at the end of this year of VND15.5 trillion. from VND.

A number of VTP subsidiaries and affiliates have also raised funds aggressively through the domestic bond market, including Quang Thuan Investment JSC, which raised about VND 10.5 trillion from 2018 to 2020 despite minimal profits, according to local media.

VTP’s properties in HCMC include Times Square – a 39-story residential, hospitality and office tower, the Union Square Mall, the 203-room Duxton Hotel and the VTP office building – all located in the district 1.

Vietnam’s government has cracked down on illicit fundraising practices linked to the real estate market this year, including arresting billionaire Trinh Van Quyet in March, with his development company Tan Hoang Minh Group putting projects up for sale soon after.

Connections in Hong Kong

Along with Truong’s husband, investor Eric Chu Nap Kee operating from Hong Kong, VTP has also teamed up with Li Ka-shing’s CK Asset, who along with Japanese investment firm Orix met with the mayor of HCMC Phan Van Mai in April this year to discuss investment. opportunities in the city.

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Justin Chiu (second from left) appearing with Truong (center), Orix and HCMC officials in April

During the meeting, local media reports reported that CK Asset Director Justin Chiu named Truong’s company as an integral part of his investment plans in the southern Vietnamese metropolis.

“We place a lot of trust and expectation when investing here, partly thanks to the assurance of our local partner, Van Thinh Phat Group,” Chiu said. “In recent days, we had the opportunity to review the projects of Van Thinh Phat Group in Ho Chi Minh City and we were completely convinced.”

Eric Chu, believed to be of Vietnamese-Chinese descent like his wife, snapped up a site in Quarry Bay, Hong Kong Island, for HK$678 million in 2018, shortly after spending HK$3 billion to acquire the Wellington office tower in Sheung Wan. .

In 2009, Chu bought the Nexxus Building in Hong Kong’s Central District for HK$3.6 billion.

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