On July 28, the Hanoi People’s Court sentenced 54 government officials and businesspeople for bribery and abuse of power related to repatriation flights during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 18-day trial was the latest – and the largest – bribery case in a broader aggressive anti-graft campaign, headed by Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) Chief Nguyen Phu Trong. The campaign has resulted in the arrest and removal of several high-level government officials, including former President Nguyen Xuan Phuc, who was forced to resign earlier this year over allegations his family had links to overpriced and falsely marketed COVID-19 test kits.
Bribes for flights
In its verdict, the Court state that the amount of the bribes taken by senior officials and business owners for repatriating overseas Vietnamese after the country closed its borders to the pandemic far exceeded the average income of civil servants. Twenty-five of the officials charged were found to have accepted bribes totalling a combined C$9.8 million. The Court also said that the officials, in abusing their power, had undermined the integrity of state agencies.
Among the accused was former Deputy Foreign Minister To Anh Dung, who was sentenced to 16 years imprisonment. The Court found he accepted bribes worth C$1.3 million to add companies to the list of approved repatriation providers.
According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, by 2022, Vietnam's score over the past decade had improved by 11 points, putting it at 77th in the watchdog organization’s ranking of 116 countries. Vietnam is Southeast Asia’s fastest-growing economy, and in a bid to attract foreign investment, CPV Chief Trong has been cracking down on corruption, calling the current campaign a “blazing furnace.” In 2022 alone, at least 4,646 government officials and business executives were investigated for suspected corruption and abuse of power.