Applying Non-Conviction Based Asset Forfeiture Measures in Viet Nam

Viet Nam, 21 December 2020 - Corruption in Viet Nam is a major impediment to broad-based growth and development, undermining government revenue and expenditure on the delivery of basic services, such as law and justice, health care, education and the maintenance of essential infrastructure. More broadly, a failure to eradicate corruption can weaken public trust in governments, inflame civil unrest and exacerbate existing inequalities.

Viet Nam has demonstrated strong commitment to combating corruption in international and domestic spheres by ratifying multilateral agreements, such as the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC). Viet Nam has undergone UNCAC reviews in 2011, 2012, 2019 and 2020, adopting and implementing the National Strategy on Preventing and Combating Corruption towards 2020 in 2010, and revising the Anti-Corruption Law in 2019.

Senior justice officials discuss optimal ways to apply asset forfeiture best practices to the context of Viet Nam

Under the framework of the UNODC Regional Programme for South East Asia 2017 -2020, UNODC and national partners, including the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), are implementing the Anti-Corruption Sub-Programme, designed to support Viet Nam to develop national capacities to prevent and address corruption, and effectively recover criminal assets. The project supports the implementation of the Vietnamese Government’s Anti-Corruption Action Plan until 2020.

As elsewhere, the Government of Viet Nam recognizes asset recovery as one of the most effective ways to deter corruption. However, the recovery of corruption-related assets is still very limited. Reports from national criminal justice agencies show that the difference between money stolen and assets returned remains large, due to the lack of non-conviction based (NCB) asset forfeiture laws, weak cooperation among authorities and slow recovery processes.

An increasing number of countries are currently introducing practices on the confiscation of proceeds of crime as a civil procedure. This type of process can be a good alternative to criminal confiscation, as it requires less stringent standards of proof (balance of probabilities) due it being framed as action against the property or assets rather than against the person holding them, and therefore not deemed dependent on a criminal conviction. Civil confiscation has proven effective in allowing for the recovery of stolen assets in cases in which reaching a criminal conviction is complex and cumbersome. Some countries have also introduced systems to utilize the asset declarations to support the identification of unexplained wealth to be confiscated. At the international level it is also important to make sure that foreign non-conviction based confiscation orders are enforced.

To improve the effectiveness of corruption-related asset recovery, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and UNODC produced a study to promote an understanding of international experiences of non-conviction based confiscation of assets. The research looks at legal and regulatory asset recovery frameworks in a number of countries (Australia, Germany, Thailand and the United States), analyzes potential obstacles at the legal and regulatory level (e.g. property rights, procedural matters) and provides a series of recommendations for Vietnamese lawmakers. The proposals included in the study examine potential models for the development of a non-conviction based mechanism of asset confiscation, as well as amendments to the legal system to increase the efficiency of asset confiscation under existing mechanisms.

The workshop, held on 21 December 2020, brought together 55 senior officials (34 of whom are female) from the judiciary and executive branches. Recommendations shared during the meeting are currently under consideration by the Ministry of Justice.

Other Useful Links: