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Criminal liability of legal entities is a big change

Update: September, 18/2015 - 08:28

Truong Trong Nghia, a lawyer and a deputy to the current National Assembly speaks to the Quan Doi Nhan Dan (People's Army) newspaper about amendments to the current criminal code.

A draft amendment to the criminal code focuses on the criminal liability of legal entities. What do you think of this proposal?

I support focusing investigations on the criminal liability of legal entities. Under the current criminal code, criminal liability is on the individual, but this is no longer suitable. Our economy has switched to a market economy and is integrated with the global economy. So it's time for us to amend the criminal code with more focus on the criminal liability of companies. The structure of companies in our country can be very complicated. That's why it is difficult for a law enforcement agency to investigate an individual, let alone determine the criminal liability of that person. Such an investigation can negatively effect a company's business.

Many of these illegal activities are performed to benefit the company, not an individual. In such a case, criminal liability, including administrative fines or bans on certain activities can help solve the problem without affecting all of the company's normal activities.

For example, Vedan Monosodium Glutamate Limited Company dumped untreated waste water in the Thi Vai river, in Dong Nai province. This left significant consequences for the environment and public health for more than a decade. It also led to severe pollution of the river's surrounding environment. In that case, administrative compensation can't solve the problem, we have to resort to criminal liability.

What are the differences between administrative sanctions and criminal liability?

When we talk about criminal liability, we refer to the legal entity that has to fix the damage the company has caused, in accordance with a court's verdict. In these cases, the company cannot pay a fine or compensation.

It's high time for us to change our criminal code with more focus on the criminal liability of legal entities, as at present there are many big companies and major economic groups that have violated our laws, including environmental law, the law on occupation, health and safety laws and others. Many of these violations are so serious that we have to take tough action and use criminal liability to sanction them.

Under the current criminal code, if we send the director of a company to jail, that company still operates without repairing the consequences of their actions. Under law we can't even confiscate his house to pay for the damage.

Don't you think this amendment may help individuals "escape" criminal liability within companies?

We cannot rule out the possibility that the both the company and individuals may deserve punishment. In my opinion, this is totally in line with our country's socio-economic conditions.

Do you know of other countries that use this investigation model?

Many countries across the world have applied this investigation model. Within the 10 ASEAN members, several of them have already applied this model. — VNS

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