HO CHI MINH CITY: Vietnam's most powerful mafia boss was found guilty on murder and bribery charges yesterday in the climax to an explosive corruption trial exposing the murky links between organised crime and the ruling Communist Party.
The Ho Chi Minh City People's Court ruled that Nam Cam had ordered the assassination of a rival underworld figure in October 2000 and had paid off police and government officials to protect his crime network.
The five-member bench also found two senior party members guilty of securing the early release of the southern “godfather” from a three-year re-education camp sentence in Oct 1997 in return for cash and gifts. A fourth key defendant, a sacked deputy minister of public security, was judged to have allowed Nam Cam's network to operate with impunity while he was the city police chief.
The government has touted the proceedings as proof of its determination to stamp out rampant corruption and restore its plunging moral and ideological legitimacy among a politically-subdued population.
In total 155 people are on trial. Sentencing was set for today after the verdicts were announced for the rest of the accused.
“With the seven offences that he has committed ... Nam Cam has become the most dangerous criminal element in society,” said Pham Luong Toan, one of two judges overseeing the trial.
“His crime network used dangerous weapons to threaten the lives and health of people ... and used money to buy the relevant individuals in anti-crime forces, undermining the law protection apparatus,” he told the packed court.
The 56-year-old grey-headed veteran of the defunct South Vietnamese army remained expressionless as the judgement was read out.
A crowd of several hundred people held back by Kalashnikov-wielding police gathered outside the building, to listen to a live broadcast of the action inside the steamy court room.
Nam Cam is expected to be handed the death penalty in a script many analysts say was written by the party's elite 15-member Politburo long before the highly managed showtrial opened on Feb 25.
Asked before the court convened for the day if he was scared, Nam Cam said with a defiant grin: “No, I am Cam.”
Tran Mai Hanh, an expelled member of the party's Central Committee and former head of Voice of Vietnam radio, and Pham Sy Chien, ex-deputy head of the Supreme People's Prosecution panel, were both found guilty of taking bribes.
The trial has left few convinced about the sincerity of the government's anti-graft campaign.
“This is a show trial driven by political considerations,” said one foreign lawyer. “We have seen no evidence that the Nam Cam affair is anything more than selective targeting.”
During his decade-long reign, Nam Cam ran gambling dens, restaurants, brothels and protection rackets, raking in an estimated US$2mil (RM7.6mil) a month. He was arrested in December 2001. – AFP
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