New law to enable Vietnam's corrupt officials to escape death penalty by paying back stolen money

By Vu Vi   July 13, 2017 | 03:36 pm GMT+7
New law to enable Vietnam's corrupt officials to escape death penalty by paying back stolen money
A general view of the National Assembly (Parliament) is seen during the opening ceremony of a recent session in Hanoi. Photo by Reuters

There are concerns that it may weaken the fight against corruption.

Amendments to Vietnam’s Penal Code, which takes effect in January 2018, give those found guilty of corruption and bribery the chance to escape the death sentence if they return 75 percent of their ill-gotten gains.

Those sentenced to death for corruption or taking bribes can have their punishment commuted to life in jail if they cooperate with the authorities during the investigation and voluntarily return at least 75 percent of their illegal earnings, officials said at a press briefing called by the President Office on Wednesday. 

The 2015 Penal Code had been scheduled to come into effect in July 2016 but was shelved due to multiple errors and loopholes. The National Assembly, Vietnam's top legislature, approved the revised law last month.

The clause was one of the controversial parts of the new code. Some lawmakers argued that it would weaken the fight against corruption, which the Vietnamese government has set as one of its priorities.

Under the 1999 Penal Code, capital punishment could be handed down to those who abused their power to embezzle VND500 million ($22,000) or take bribes of at least VND300 million. Vietnamese workers earned an average of $2,200 last year.

The new law also spares convicts over 75 years old from the death penalty, as well as those convicted of robbery, vandalizing equipment and works significant to national security, opposing order, surrendering to the enemy, drug possession and appropriation, and the production and trade of fake food. That will bring Vietnam's number of capital crimes from 22 to 15.