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

Odds are that scandal would have played out differently in Vietnam, another nation that struggled with misbehaving bankers in 2014. The Southeast Asian state doesn’t just send unscrupulous financiers to jail. Sometimes, it even sends them to death row.

Amid a sweeping cleanup of its financial sector, Vietnam has sentenced three bankers to death in late 2013. One duo on death row embezzled roughly $25 million from the state-owned Vietnam Agribank. Their co-conspirators caught decade-plus prison sentences.

A 57-year-old former regional boss from Vietnam Development Bank, a 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. 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% of his purported $18-billion haul.

However, the Vietnamese public is now 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.

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.

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.

PRI Organization / ABC Flash Point News 2020.

 

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