(Bloomberg) -- The $12 billion fraud trial of Vietnamese real estate tycoon Truong My Lan began Tuesday as the government presses its anti-corruption campaign across all sectors of society.

Lan, chairwoman of Van Thinh Phat Group, or VTP, that held some of the most prestigious properties in the nation’s commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City, faces charges of allegedly embezzling more than $12 billion from Saigon Commercial Bank, or SCB, between February 2018 and October 2022 — a sum that surpasses the market capitalization of most Vietnamese banks.

The trial, which could last two months, is being held under tight security at the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court. Some six tons of documents are part of the proceedings, according to local media.

Eighty-six defendants in a dozen or so vans under heavy police escort blaring sirens arrived at the courthouse in the city’s District One around 7 a.m. Lan’s husband, Hong Kong businessman Eric Chu, and niece, VTP Chief Executive Officer Truong Hue Van, also face charges in the case. 

The trial started about 8:20 a.m. with Lan and her husband saying they were in good health after being asked about their condition by Judge Pham Luong Toan. 

The hearing overseen by two judges and three jury members then proceeded with the reading of charges for each defendant. Lan was charged with bribing officials, violating banking regulations and asset embezzlement, while her husband faces a single charge of violating lending rules. Van is charged with asset embezzlement.

Some 200 attorneys are representing the defendants, including five for Lan, according to local media. 

The country’s largest-ever fraud case is part of a years-long anti-corruption campaign spearheaded by Communist Party Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong. The push has touched all sectors of society and the highest levels of government and comes as the Southeast Asian nation emerges as a global supply chain hub for companies such as Apple Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. The Lan case and others have roiled the nation’s bond, banking and property sectors.

Lan, 67, says she didn’t intentionally break the law or cause damage to the state and depositors, according to her lawyer, Giang Hong Thanh. He added that Lan is willing to cover any economic damages that the court rules she is responsible for.

Lan faces imprisonment, if found guilty, and even a possible death sentence in the worst case.

A separate investigation is looking into alleged fraudulent appropriation of assets from bond issuance tied to the developer. Another police probe is examining allegations of money laundering tied to Lan and Chu, according to the Ministry of Public Security’s Cong An Nhan Dan newspaper.

Representatives of SCB, Chu and Van have not responded to requests for comment.

--With assistance from Nguyen Dieu Tu Uyen and Nguyen Xuan Quynh.

(Updates the story with Van’s charge in the sixth paragraph and lawyers in the seventh paragraph. Earlier version corrected second paragraph to say VTP.)

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.