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Cablegate: Deputy Ag Ministers Get Off On Appeal

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: 03 HANOI 3156

1. (U) Summary. The suspension of jail sentences of two
former deputy Ministers of Agriculture and Rural Development
(MARD) by the Hanoi Court of Appeals on April 5 will
undermine public credibility in the GVN's determination to
stem official corruption, even though the Court upheld the
death sentence of the principal defendant, who ran a MARD
corporate subsidiary. End Summary.

2. (U) According to media reports, the Hanoi Court of
Appeals on April 5 announced that it would uphold the death
sentence of La Thi Kim Oanh, who had been convicted in
December (reftel) for embezzling several million US dollars
worth of Vietnamese dong by getting MARD guarantees for bank
loans, which were then "misappropriated." Three other
lengthy sentences against employees of the MARD subsidiary
were also upheld, as was a lesser sentence against a MARD
department director. Ms. Oanh may still appeal to President
Tran Duc Luong for clemency.

3. (U) The Court, however, suspended the sentences of the
two MARD deputy ministers -- Nguyen Quang Ha and Nguyen
Thien Luan -- who had been convicted in the case, charged
with dereliction of duty in having signed the guarantees
improperly. Instead, they will be on probation for four and
three years, respectively. Minister of Agriculture Le Huy
Ngo testified on their behalf at the appeal hearing, but not
at the original trial.

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4. (U) Comment: This trial and appeal received extensive
coverage in the local media, apparently to help convince the
public of the GVN's determination to move aggressively
against corruption and embezzlement even in official or semi-
official ranks. Despite the harshness of the sentence
against Ms. Oanh, the whitewashing of the convictions of the
two deputy ministers will undermine the credibility of the
GVN's anti-corruption campaign, which has so far little
seized public imagination or confidence. Skepticism, at
least among urban elites, remains high that the GVN or CPV
would ever target senior officials for genuine punishment.

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