RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Winn reports: "Amid a sweeping cleanup of its financial sector, Vietnam has sentenced three bankers to death in the past six months."

Why are these men not in jail? (photo: Getty Images)
Why are these men not in jail? (photo: Getty Images)

Vietnam Is Sentencing Corrupt Bankers to Death by Firing Squad

By Patrick Winn, GlobalPost

03 April 14


or the most part, American bankers whose rash pursuit of profit brought on the 2008 global financial collapse didn’t get indicted. They got bonuses.

Odds are that scandal would have played out differently in Vietnam, another nation struggling with misbehaving bankers.

The authoritarian Southeast Asian state doesn’t just send unscrupulous financiers to jail. Sometimes, it sends them to death row.

Amid a sweeping cleanup of its financial sector, Vietnam has sentenced three bankers to death in the past six months.

One duo now on death row embezzled roughly $25 million from the state-owned Vietnam Agribank. Their co-conspirators caught decade-plus prison sentences.

In March, a 57-year-old former regional boss from Vietnam Development Bank, another government-run bank, was sentenced to death over a $93-million swindling job.

According to Vietnam’s Tuoi Tre news outlet, several of his colluders were sentenced to life imprisonment after they confessed to securing bogus loans with a diamond ring and a BMW coupe. And last week, in an unrelated case, charges against senior employees from the same bank allege $47 million in losses from dubious loans.

None of this would impress Bernie Madoff, mastermind of America’s largest ever financial fraud scheme. The combined amount from all three Vietnamese cases adds up to less than 1 percent of his purported $18-billion haul.

But these death sentences nevertheless are high profile scandals in Vietnam.

That’s the point. Human rights watchdogs contend that splashy trials in Vietnam are acts of political theater with predetermined conclusions. The audience: a Vietnamese public weary of state corruption. But these sentences also sound loud alarm bells to dodgy bankers who are currently running scams.

“It’s a message to those in this game to be less greedy and that business as usual is getting out of hand,” said Adam McCarty, chief economist with the Hanoi-based consulting firm Mekong Economics.

“The message to people in the system is this: Your chances of getting caught are increasing,” McCarty said. “Don’t just rely on big people above you. Because some of these [perpetrators] would’ve had big people above them. And it didn’t help them.”

Like most nations that crush dissent and operate with little transparency, Vietnam is highly corrupt.

According to a World Bank study, half of all businesses operating within the communist state expect that gift giving toward officials is required “to get things done.” Transparency International, which publishes the world’s leading corruption gauge, contends Vietnam is more corrupt than Mexico but not quite as bad as Russia.

Unlike in America, where judges can’t sentence white-collar criminals to death, Vietnam can execute its citizens for a range of corporate crimes.

Amnesty International reports that death sentences in Vietnam have been handed down to criminals for running shady investment schemes, counterfeiting cash and even defaulting on loans. This is unusual: United Nations officials have condemned death for “economic crimes” yet Vietnam persists with these sentences — as does neighboring China.

Though statistics on Vietnam’s opaque justice system are scarce, a state official conceded that more than 675 people sit on death row for a range of crimes, according to the Associated Press.

It’s still unclear how the bankers will be killed. Vietnam’s traditional means of execution involves binding perpetrators to a wooden post, stuffing their mouths with lemons and calling in a firing squad. The nation wants to transition to lethal injections. But European nations refuse to export chemicals used in executions (namely sodium thiopental) to governments practicing capital punishment.

Fraudulent bankers are receiving heavy sentences at a moment when Vietnam is enacting major financial reforms.

For decades, Vietnam has been slowly transforming its communist-style, state-run market into a more open and competitive arena. In the post-reunification era, the government owned every bank in Vietnam. Today, state-run banks control only 40 percent of all assets.

This push to bank in a more Western style has ushered in improvements as well as temptations to swindle. According to the UN economist Vu Quang Viet, Vietnamese credit laws passed in 2010 “simply copied the lax US law now widely believed to be at least partially responsible for the financial debacle in 2008.”

Campaigns to root out corruption are promoted as a way to entice foreign investment, which could help prop up Vietnamese banks whose growth has slowed from a sprint to a jog.

But the recent death sentences aren’t really intended to prove the reformers’ sincerity to the outside world, according to McCarty.

“They don’t care about foreigners. It’s all internal politics,” McCarty said. Foreign banking honchos wouldn’t be impressed by a few executions anyway. “If you really want to want to resolve the problem, you can’t just arrest people,” he said. “You’ve got to improve accountability and transparency in the entire system.”

A leading Vietnamese newspaper, Thanh Nien, is also pushing for system-wide cleanup in lieu of showcase trials against a few corporate criminals.

An op-ed in the paper recently compared death sentences for corruption to fighting fire with fire. The preferred approach would be dousing corruption before it burns through public funds. “It is better to prevent corruption,” the paper opined, “than deal with it after the fact.” your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+78 # Capn Canard 2014-04-03 16:10
Perhaps we should use the traditional Vietnamese technique "...of execution involves binding perpetrators to a wooden post, stuffing their mouths with lemons and calling in a firing squad." Does anyone believe that is too severe for use on our own American Banksters? Just an idea...
+48 # Joe Bob 2014-04-04 00:44
Good Idea. Shoot the bastards. Just look at their smug pusses in the photo.
+52 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2014-04-04 08:52
Eric Holder,"if we jailed our bankers, there would not be enough talent to tun the banks." Think that is essentially what he said some months ago. Question. "Why do we need crooks to run our country?" Holder made an ass out of himself.
+33 # janla 2014-04-04 13:04
Does it take talent to be that crooked? The word talent needs redefining.
+13 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2014-04-06 11:31
Think Holder made an ass out of himself when he made his comment. Essentially, he said, "if it were not for crooked bankers which we need to run the crooked banking system, we would have to emply talented honest bankers. Where are they, the talented honest bankers? Apparently, he was saying-(there are none.)" Bill Maher's show, week or so ago had a conservative on the show. The question arose by Maher:"should GM executives be criminally prosecuted for causing deaths due to a faulty ten dollar ignition swith which GM knew about and refused to fix?" The Conservatives reply:"they (the GM executives) are job creators. If they are prosecuted, who would run the company?" The conservative's line of sick reasoning is essentially Eric Holder's sick reasoning. For the consumer, it is a no win situation.
+1 # tigerlillie 2014-04-06 22:29
Don't buy American autos.
+13 # brux 2014-04-05 09:16
We've allowed corruption to take such a hold that most of the top level or public and private institutions are either corrupt or complicit in the corruption of others.

But ... I think we should save the bullets and use guillotines ... that was a good quick way of ending corruption for the French aristocracy.
0 # john.schoonover 2014-04-08 13:07
Don't forget health insurance CEOs.
+67 # thunderable 2014-04-03 19:50
The death penalty for anyone is barbaric, but heavily fining and sentencing those responsible for blatant and willful corruption (looking at you, Jamie Dimon, among others) to heavy prison terms would send a shiver down the spines of the financial scofflaws (and those in the auto industry as well - GM and Toyota come to mind).

But we live in a country (and a world) where if you're rich, your crimes are pardoned (and often celebrated), and if you're poor and steal $5 or sell a dime-bag of pot (or are just the wrong color at the wrong place and time) you get hard time, so we know justice ain't happenin' anytime soon around these parts.
+11 # in deo veritas 2014-04-04 07:12
capital punishment is the only viable solution for stopping these scum. Once they get out of prison or get away with whatever heinous act they did, they will do it again. Statistics support this. Even the drug peddlers interviewed in prison said that they would do it again after release. If acts of violence were committed against those who make our so-called laws perhaps they would get real and toughen up the laws. Bring back the Lindberg Law to execute kidnappers for a start and go from there.
+20 # bmiluski 2014-04-04 09:34
I agree in deo veritas......No t only will they do it again, they would be living off the money they stashed in off-shore banks.
I say execute them. Execute them all. No life-term sentences because you know they'd buy their way out of them.
+13 # Cassandra2012 2014-04-04 16:03
Generally agree, but the question is more involved with the phoney interpretation that corporations are people ... an individual running a corporation needs not to be able to exempt himself from severe punishment if he is a CEO or CFO of a corporation like BP or Exxon that continues to destroy aquifers, the Gulf of Mexico or Puget Sound, or most recently, LAKE MICHIGAN!! NB the latter has NOT been inthe news lately, clearly because the 'news' is controlled by the extremist RW and their mouthpieces.
-2 # tigerlillie 2014-04-06 22:31
Don't you wonder when someone will take justice into their own hands? That's all we need for icing on the cake,a bunch of vigalantes running around.
+1 # john.schoonover 2014-04-08 13:09
A few deaths by firing squad to save the lives of untold 99%ers? Absolutely!
+33 # jsluka 2014-04-03 22:05
I say "Up against the wall mo-fo's!"

(Pardon the language in the wiki link)
+14 # Joe Bob 2014-04-04 00:57
And as wiki says, the Jefferson Airplane used it as one of their songs, which I loved in the late 60's:
Most of the lyrics for the 1969 song We Can Be Together, by the acid rock band Jefferson Airplane, were taken virtually word-for-word from a leaflet written by Motherfucker John Sundstrom, and published as "The Outlaw Page" in the East Village Other. [10]The lyrics read in part, "We are all outlaws in the eyes of America. In order to survive we steal, cheat, lie, forge, fuck, hide, and deal... Everything you say we are, we are... Up Against the Wall, Motherfucker!"
+2 # tigerlillie 2014-04-06 22:34
Ah the '60's, when revolution was just around the corner. That didn't play out so well, but they were good times.
+9 # luvdoc 2014-04-03 23:58
Sharia for the rotten mf's sounds appropriate to me. luvdoc
+24 # tedrey 2014-04-04 04:00
Perhaps not a retreat to capital punishment, but whatever the penalty -- monetary confiscation, jail term, permanent ejection from all financial offices -- it must be actually exacted from the individual, and not evaded by fines that don't belong to the perpetrator in the first place.
+18 # RoseM 2014-04-04 06:56
I think we should try that here. I bet it would work.
+22 # JSRaleigh 2014-04-04 12:12
Here's a thought ...

If we sent Vietnam some of our bankers, I wonder if they'd send us some of our jobs back?
+15 # RCW 2014-04-04 12:30
There is a lesson for us here, but as a possible alternative to the firing squad, a life sentence of latrine cleaning or equally really bad job and no amenities.
0 # john.schoonover 2014-04-08 13:10
That would be cruel and unusual. ;-)
+9 # The_Freak 2014-04-04 13:41
It seems that we always fall short when it comes to true justice. either our laws are too tough and end up hurting the wrong people or not tough enough and hurt the wrong people. As far as the financial world, I say those who commit financial crimes that involve hardships to others should have all accounts frozen and any assets and all gifts including cash to relatives and friends be confiscated and allowed a public appointed attorney. A private attorney would have to be paid for up front by someone not affiliated to the accused plus be approved by the courts. If they had a attorney on retainer he would not be allowed to represent the client because all monies paid to that attorney would have to be confiscated as well. Sentencing would include incarceration with a work release and ankle monitor and all court approved earnings be paid to victims and the courts plus 10 years no parole. Once released, never to be allowed to work in the financial sector again including being an adviser if caught 20 years automatically. if you think that to harsh just think of all the lives that have been destroyer by the financial sector.
+15 # Farafalla 2014-04-04 13:50
Interesting how this story uncorked some serious rage by readers when it comes to our very own banksters. While I oppose the death penalty in general, I think it can be justified when the toll on human suffering has been so large and unprecedented that no other punishment seems acceptable. I'm thinking war criminals like Bush Cheney and mass exploiters like our banksters.

But it is funny to see that this article has a huge contradiction in it. The author states "Like most nations that crush dissent and operate with little transparency, Vietnam is highly corrupt." The biggest corruption scandals (when it comes to banks and trade) are done by EU members and the US and other more "transparent and democratic" countries. Are we off the corruption hook because we have ritualized elections?
+3 # brux 2014-04-05 09:19
There are cases where the death penalty is the only thing that does not make a total mockery of justice ... and the anti-capital punishment crowd ought to realize that.

I don't like the death penalty either when it is abused it is always abused by corruption politicians seeking to make a name for themselves, but there are crimes that demand it. The mass murder of children is just one of them, and massive corruption or betrayal of the public trust is another.

You just cannot deny that.
0 # allatu 2014-04-08 07:30
transparency international is a usa/eu company designed to intimidate corporate unfriendly countries. this article is partially a hit piece against vietnam and for usa/eu hegemony. but the part about holding bankers personally responsible for the death and destruction that they cause is great.
+13 # loraxt10 2014-04-04 19:02
How about we just try them and convict them here and then outsource the punishment
part to Vietnam?
+1 # tigerlillie 2014-04-06 22:36
I think you've found a way to make government privatization work.
+3 # Shipton 2014-04-05 11:30
After the executions, place their heads on a pike outside the entrances to their former corporate offices as a reminder to those still working there of what can happen to them. It's grisley but if you execute them and forget about them someone else will try it. Leave a visceral gut wrenching reminder for everyone who works there.
+1 # Shipton 2014-04-05 11:31
After the executions, place their heads on pike outside the entrances to their former corporate offices as a reminder to those still working there of what can happen to them. It's grisley but if you execute them and forget about them someone else will try it. Leave a visceral gut wrenching reminder for everyone who works there.
+11 # ahollman 2014-04-05 12:43
We should not model our criminal justice system on that of a corrupt dictatorship.

That said, we need swifter, harsher, criminal punishments for white collar criminals and a "death penalty" for corporations.

Current "corporations are people too" legalisms conveniently offload personal, criminal liability onto corporations, but does nothing to increase either the speed or severity of corporate penalties. Instead, we have multi-year negotiations between the Dept. of Justice and major corporations that result in "settlements". These return pennies on the dollar, fail to make victims whole, often have secret terms, and reduce fines from stiff deterrents to a cost of doing business.

Let's end the death penalty for people and create a death penalty for corporations. Limit state corporate charters to corporations that do all of their business in one state. Require federal charters for multi-state entities and for holding corporations of multiple, single-state entities.

For sufficient cause, a corporate "death penalty" should be revocation of federal charter. Assets are seized and sold by the federal government, first to compensate victims, second to pay fines, third to provide some compensation to innocent employees, and last to pay off creditors and bondholders. Asset seizure extends to assets sold and to executive compensation paid after the crime. Stockholders lose.

This will instill more fear of wrongdoing in corporate America than putting anyone's head on a pike.
+6 # Interested Observer 2014-04-06 08:14
I can certainly share the sentiment here but Pol Pot, Robespierre, et al, showed us that literally following Shakespeare's "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers" doesn't really work. It must suffice to deprive them of the option of working in major finance again, ever, after stripping them of their ill-gotten gains. But first we must reestablish the understanding that the structure of the economy is a human invention not the mysterious ways of a deity known as the "Invisible Hand of the Free Market". It is a game, with rules, and requires a referee. It is most unfortunate that the only entity big enough to be that referee is a government, preferably of all the people not just the rich ones. Given the record of the priesthood of the invisible hand, one scam crisis after another (S&L, Iceland, Sub-prime mortgage derivatives, etc) and the engineered transfer (that is, REDISTRIBUTION, that word most hated by the right when the direction is anything but up) of wealth upward, it is clear that their religion is false and they cannot be trusted to run things for even a decade without a disaster, and the religious doctrine of our financiers that unfettered greed is the path to the best of all possible worlds is bunk.
+1 # bonifaceaw 2014-04-06 16:02
It must first be recalled that there is no such thing as honest or safe fractional reserve banking, it is always fraud, and a fractional reserve system can always collapse.

The bakers who were sentenced here could not have committed their crimes without accomplices within the Vietnam government. I doubt any of these accomplices were ever charged, let alone convicted and sentenced.
+1 # tigerlillie 2014-04-06 22:38
It was all just wishful thinking (I think).
0 # USA2012??? 2014-04-08 09:58
In the above photo Jamie Dimond clearly looks uneasy: he'd better pray the US doesn't follow suit!

As for Bernie Madoff he was a convenient scapegoat: he couldn't have pulled off such a grandiose Ponzie scheme by himself!

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.