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For Vietnam officials accused of graft, insanity is the best defense

Lawmakers in Vietnam are complaining that too many officials facing corruption charges aren't being punished or are only paying small fines after they plead insanity.

Do Van Duong, a member of the National Assembly's Justice Committee, said in Hanoi Monday that insanity pleas "happen in a lot of corruption cases,” Thanhnien News said.

Duong said some suspects develop mental problems as soon as an investigation begins. He didn't name any suspects but said  when officials raise the insanity defense their cases are typically delayed for mental evaluations or suspended indefinitely.

“I think we don’t need psychological diagnoses for these kinds of criminals,” he told Thanhien News.

Nguyen Van Hien, the chairman of the Assembly's Justice Committee, concurred that some officials indicted for graft have evaded criminal responsibility by pleading insanity.

“Were they really sick or were they just avoiding conviction? I noticed that many of them were very sane and healthy,” Hien said.

He proposed changes to the way judicial investigations are conducted to prevent corruption suspects from using "loopholes by faking mental illness."

Nguyen Hai Phong, the country’s deputy chief prosecutor, blamed part of the problem on the lack of professional training for investigators.

The Vietnam government said 54 corruption cases were prosecuted during the past year involving 87 people and $3.23 million.

Tran Duc Luong, deputy chief government inspector, told Thanhnien News that most graft cases aren't reported because work units don't want to look bad.

Vietnamese law recognizes 12 forms of corruption, but only seven are considered criminal acts.

The other five carry only administrative penalties, the story said.


Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.