Enhancing Corruption Investigations in Viet Nam

Hanoi (Viet Nam), 8 September 2020
- Viet Nam’s State President, Nguyen Phu Trong, once likened fighting corruption to “catching the rat without breaking the pot”, referring to the need to stamp out corruption while maintaining the integrity and daily functions of state institutions. Indeed, as a form of organised crime, corruption is prone to infiltrate the very infrastructure that seeks its eradication, such that effective anti-corruption efforts can be notoriously hard to achieve. As part of this drive, the first six months of this year saw the Central Steering Committee on Corruption Prevention & Control temporarily seize over 11.7 trillion đồng ($505 million USD) of assets, according to a government statement.

While asset seizure is an important tool for governments seeking to root out corruption, many challenges persist – some even enshrined in legal frameworks across the region. One such obstacle is the use of companies or trusts to conceal the identities of those involved in large-scale corruption, through the creation of a ‘legal person’.

In Viet Nam, where the provisions to confer legal personality on a company exist, field-level inspectors may find the navigation of such an environment challenging. Officers need the tools to understand how criminals seek anonymity using legal as well as illegal means, to draw links effectively between suspects and criminal proceeds.

To address this, UNODC has partnered with the Ministry of Public Security (MOPS) to boost the investigative skills of anti-corruption officers, through a workshop funded by the United Kingdom. Participating inspectors learnt about the use of corporate vehicles to create legal persons, and received mentoring on how to leverage the Penal Code of Viet Nam to build a persuasive case. The officers then developed evidentiary timelines in response to hypothetical corruption cases. A short video giving an overview of the training and responses from investigator and prosecutor participants can be viewed here.  
The training, which lasted from 7-9 September, is part of a broader strategy by UNODC to strengthen anti-corruption efforts across Southeast Asia. Later this month, the agency is holding an online webinar to further efforts to build international cooperation around the topic of beneficial ownership – read more here.