12-year 'crackdown' fails to recover vast majority of corrupt money in Vietnam: lawmakers

By Hoang Thuy   November 6, 2017 | 09:05 pm GMT+7
12-year 'crackdown' fails to recover vast majority of corrupt money in Vietnam: lawmakers
A bank employee counts US dollar notes in Hanoi. Photo by Reuters/Kham

Failure to recover the money will render Vietnam’s corruption fight 'ineffective', no matter how many convictions are made.

Vietnam’s fight against corruption that started in earnest 12 years ago when a new law was introduced has been largely ineffective, at least in terms of the money that's been recovered.

The recovery of corrupt money has been “disappointing”, lawmakers said on Monday at an ongoing meeting of the legislative National Assembly.

Nguyen Van Hien, chairman of the assembly’s Judicial Committee, said that recovering corrupt assets is a major part of fighting the crime, but so far authorities have failed and there are no solutions in the offing.

He cited a government report as saying that “the recovery efforts have seen positive developments but the amount remains low.”

According to Hien, less than 8 percent of the money embezzled in the corruption cases that have been exposed has been recovered. The rest has been dispersed and cannot be retrieved, he said.

Two major corruption cases were cited as examples at the meeting.

In 2012, former executives of state-owned shipbuilding giant Vinashin were ordered in court to return nearly VND1 trillion ($43.86 million) of embezzled money, but not a single dong has materialized.

In another case at state shipping firm Vinalines, its former chairman was ordered to return VND110 billion to the state budget, but only a fifth has been paid back.

Mai Thi Phuong Hoa, a legislator from the northern province of Nam Dinh, said that failure to recover corrupt money will render Vietnam’s corruption fight “ineffective”, no matter how many convictions are made.

Hoa said law enforcement agencies need to adopt stronger measures such as freezing the suspects’ assets at the start of investigations.

Vietnam’s new Penal Code also highlights the importance of recovering money gained from corruption.

The law, which will take effect at the start of next year, gives people convicted of corruption or bribery the chance to escape the death sentence if they return at least 75 percent of their ill-gotten gains.

Vietnam assigned a new inspection chief late last month as part of a sweeping corruption crackdown spearheaded by the country’s Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong.

The anti-graft push has led to major personnel changes, including the replacement of Ho Chi Minh City’s Party boss Dinh La Thang in May and his counterpart in Da Nang Pham Xuan Anh last month.

Thang was accused of “serious violations” when he was head of state energy giant PetroVietnam several years ago. Anh was dismissed for violating democratic centralism principles, accepting a car and two houses as gifts from businesses, using controversial academic credentials and displaying signs of nepotism.