Hanoi: A Vietnamese former banker and his business associate have been sentenced to death for embezzling USD 25 million by a court in Ho Chi Minh City, state media said today.

The pair were among 11 defendants in the nine-day trial in the country’s southern business metropolis, in a case that has highlighted Vietnam’s efforts to show it is stamping out graft in the face of widespread public anger over the issue.

Vu Quoc Hao, 58, the one-time chief of a finance subsidiary of state-owned giant Vietnam Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Agribank) and construction firm boss Dang Van Hai, 56, were sentenced to death yesterday, according to state television.

“They were given the sentences for embezzlement of assets, mismanagement, abuse of power and fraud, causing serious consequences to the state,” it said.

The other nine defendants were jailed for between three and 14 years for violating state economic management regulations, the report added.

The group was accused of embezzling more than USD 25 million of state money between April 2008 and March 2009 by falsifying financial leasing contracts, according to earlier reports on state media.

Vietnam is rated one of the world’s most corrupt nations and graft is a top concern for many ordinary people.

The communist government has vowed to clamp down on the issue.

“There will be strict punishment for state cadres and officials who received bribes,” warned Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc at an anti-corruption dialogue held in Hanoi Tuesday, according to the government’s website.

The one-party state has been rocked by a number of high-profile corruption scandals in recent years, with graft and huge debts at giant state-run companies accused of fuelling the country’s economic woes.

The country is now gearing up for a number of major corruption trials, including a case involving top bankers and a former minister accused of the theft and illegal deposit of USD 34 million.

Another trial is also set to probe shipping giant Vinalines, which defaulted on payments of some USD 1.1 billion.

Vietnam resumed executions by lethal injection earlier this year, drawing criticism from the UN’s human rights office.

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