Vietnam Dismisses ‘Inaccurate’ Reports of Huge Payout in Arbitration Over Dutchman’s Seized Assets

Updated: 2019-04-12 16:30:17

Vietnam’s government on Friday dismissed as “inaccurate” reports about the verdict in a case filed by an ethnic Vietnamese man of Dutch citizenship after leaked documents showed he was awarded nearly U.S. $40 million in compensation for the seizure of his property more than 20 years ago.

In a statement, Vietnam’s Ministry of Justice acknowledged that the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitrage, a council founded under United Nations Commission on International Trade and Law's (UNCITRAL) arbitration rules, had come to a decision in a lawsuit brought by Trinh Vinh Binh against the government.

But it said that under the rules, both parties are obligated to “keep the verdict a secret.”

Since Wednesday, several media outlets have reported that Binh won the lawsuit and the Vietnamese government would be required to pay him a substantial amount in damages.

The ministry said information in the reports about the verdict “inaccurately reflects the content and includes subjective interpretations and speculation, causing misunderstandings,” without elaborating.

The ministry added that it is working with relevant agencies and the government’s representative law firm to proceed.

But leaked documents of the verdict, copies of which were also obtained by RFA’s Vietnamese Service, show that Vietnam’s government is required to pay Binh U.S. $37,518,596—U.S. $27,518,596 of which is compensation for “expropriation of the properties,” including a loss of chance from developing said properties, and the remaining U.S. $10 million of which constitutes “moral damages.”

Vietnam’s government will also be required to compensate Binh nearly U.S. $800,000 for arbitration costs and more than U.S. $7 million as a portion of his legal fees, fees for expert witnesses, and related expenses, the Permanent Court of Arbitrage ruling says.

The amount of compensation will accrue interest at a rate of five percent, compounded annually, until it has been paid in full.

Binh became a Dutch national after the Vietnam War and returned to Vietnam in the early 1990s to invest in several projects in Ho Chi Minh City and surrounding provinces.

But in 1998, the People’s Court of Ba Ria-Vung Tau province sentenced him to 11 years in prison for “bribery” and “land management violations,” fining him and seizing all of his assets in Vietnam. He was allowed to leave the country at the time—likely because the government took everything he owned.

After he returned to the Netherlands, Binh filed a lawsuit in 2003 against the Vietnamese government as an investor through an international court in Stockholm, saying he had been wrongfully convicted.

He withdrew the lawsuit after settling out of court, but sued again through the Permanent Court of Arbitrage in January 2015 for U.S. $1.25 billion, saying he had never received the agreed upon amount from the earlier settlement.

On Friday, Binh warned Vietnam’s government in an interview with RFA that it “should be careful.”

“It is not easy to take people’s assets,” he said, adding that “there will be more lawsuits in the future,” without providing details.

“[The verdict] sets a precedent for other lawsuits in the future brought by people who have lost their land and assets to the government.”

When asked about the Ministry of Justice’s statement, Binh said he hadn’t read it and could not comment, but confirmed that “I won,” and said he was unable to disclose details of the compensation.

According to Vietnam’s government, foreign direct investment (FDI) into the country rose by 6.2 percent year-on-year to U.S. $4.12 billion in the first three months of 2019.

FDI pledges in the first quarter jumped 86.2 percent to U.S. $10.8 billion from a year earlier.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Viet Ha. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

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