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Opinions divided over cash for death penalty clemency

Update: June, 06/2015 - 10:28

Punishing economic corruption and showing leniency to repentants were issues still being debated, Nguyen Son, National Assembly delegate and deputy chief justice of the Supreme People's Court, told Nong Thon Ngay Nay (Countryside Today).

Article 39 of the draft of the Revised Criminal Code says that for economic crimes, a death sentence can be commuted if the offender recompenses a certain percentage of the misappropriated amount. This has raised concerns that criminals can use money to escape the worst punishment. Can you comment on this?

It is a fact that opinions still differ on this issue. Some people support humane treatment of the person who has been sentenced to death, if he submits to the State Budget a sum equivalent to the misappropriated amount.

The (Revised Code) Compiling Board has held that in corruption cases, if the loss is compensated, it is possible to consider commuting the death sentence. If they (persons facing the death penalty) honestly want to redeem themselves and are serious in recompensing the loss by transferring all assets gained from the misappropriated funds to the State budget, their sentence can be commuted. However, this issue is still being debated by the National Assembly and is yet to be decided. Now, even some of the members on the Compiling Board are undecided.

Has this law been thought of because the recovery of monies lost in corruption cases has been very low?

It is true that the money recovered from corruption cases is not much. An example is the case of Duong Chi Dung (former director of Viet Nam Maritime Administration) and his accomplices, where each offender was found to have stolen VND10 billion ($460,000) per person. So far, the money recovered from them has been negligible. This draft regulation is designed to make offenders aware of their accountability and know that their remorse and willingness to seek redemption can result in reduced sentences.

It cannot be denied that many offenders are senior officials, many of whom have made meritorious contributions to the State and some of whom have been awarded orders, medals, certificates of merit and so on.

It is a degradation of moral or ethical values that led them to corruption. At a trial, the court always has to take these factors into consideration. They have to look at different sides of the issue, take into account different factors, including personal histories. However, above all, they have to rely on the law. Their job can only be based on the law.

Some say that account of the fight against corruption contained in the Government's report submitted to the ongoing National Assembly session is vague. What is your opinion?

Generally speaking, the fight against corruption is complicated, so it is impossible to state everything clearly all at once in a report. Later when the report is opened up to debate, the Government and relevant agencies can provide clearer explanations. All documents that the National Assembly debates are expected to receive challenging inputs and arguments. When this happens, things will be made clearer.

Are justice agencies meeting difficulties in the fight against corruption?

Corruption is a hard nut to crack. One of the hindrances that lead to poor results is the ‘achievement plague' (where people and institutions vie with each other to show off their achievements).

At the grassroots level, insiders are the ones who know most about the corrupt behaviour of their colleagues, but because of this ‘plague,' revelations and exposures (of corruption) remain limited. This is a problem that should be addressed by changing people's awareness of this problem. — VNS

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