Vietnam lawmakers find money-laundering bill inadequate

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While laws on money laundering prevention are necessary in Vietnam, a bill drafted by the State Bank of Vietnam failed to clearly define laundering activities, lawmakers said at the National Assembly on Tuesday.

Do Van Duong from Ho Chi Minh City said the bill needs to clarify the types of money laundering, which range from investment into hotels and stocks to football betting.

Vo Thi Hong Thoai, a representative from the Mekong Delta province of Bac Lieu agreed with Duong.

She said transactions in stocks, jewelry and banks also need to be mentioned. Vietnamese have a habit of using cash in most of their transactions, which makes it easy for people to commit the crime, Thoai said.

In the meantime, Tran Hoang Ngan, another legislature member from HCMC, raised concerns that import and export activities pose money laundering risks. But, the bill only mentioned the risk in three lines -- too little when compared to the country's current import-export values which were worth about US$160 billion last year and some $200 billion this year, according to Ngan.

Additionally, checks on international payments transferring money for import-export transactions are quite limited, because banks usually care about fees they collect from the transactions, he said. Therefore, banks don't check whether goods are brought into Vietnam or not. He said this issue should be mentioned in the law as well.

Nguyen Thi Nguyet Huong, a lawmaker from Hanoi, said the bill's drafter needs to reconsider the regulation that allows anti-money laundering agencies to access the information systems of organizations and individuals.

Conditions that allow such authority need to be regulated clearly to guarantee people's privacy rights, she added.

Nguyen Manh Hien, head of the department of prosecuting cases of economics under the People's Supreme Procuracy, agreed that the law is necessary, but said that "As long as we aren't able to control cash transactions, there are still many difficulties detecting money laundering crimes."

According to Hien, Vietnam has never detected a case related to money laundering. However, that doesn't mean that the crime doesn't exist in Vietnam. Instead, it's likely that money laundering is conducted is such sophisticated ways that agencies can't detect them, according to Hien.

The official also noted international agencies such as the United Nations and the World Bank have said Vietnam is a good place for money laundering criminals, because criminals can make use of cash transactions to buy valuable things like land, houses and cars in someone else's name. Then they can ask that one to keep the money to legalize the money's origins.

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