A court in Vietnam has convicted the country's biggest mafia boss on organized crime charges - including murder and bribery. The trial of the gangster known as Nam Cam has riveted Vietnam because it involves senior members of the Communist Party accused of protecting him. The main defendant in the country's biggest corruption trial stood shuffling his feet, wearing a striped prison outfit as he waited for the Ho Chi Minh City People's Court to deliver its ruling.
The verdict Wednesday was no surprise. Reputed mafia boss Truong Van Cam, also know as Nam Cam, was guilty of seven charges including murder, bribery and racketeering. His is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday and could get the death penalty. Among his crimes, he was convicted of ordering a hit on a rival crime boss after she sent him a gift-wrapped box full of rats.
Nam Cam was arrested in late 2001 among much publicity, with the government touting the bust as proof it was serious about cracking down on crime and corruption. But embarrassment followed when the country's biggest organized crime arrest evolved into a major corruption scandal reaching into the senior ranks of the Communist Party.
Also found guilty Wednesday were two senior members of the Communist Party Central Committee, the elite 150-member group that makes most policy decisions in Vietnam. The two men - a vice minister of public security and the head of government-run Voice of Vietnam radio - were convicted of taking bribes to get Nam Cam released early from an earlier prison sentence in the mid 1990s.
At the height of his power, Nam Cam's empire was reportedly raking in about $2 million a month from gambling, kareoke bars and prostitution. His reach was huge - 153 co-defendants are on trial with him, including 18 government officials. One of them is Ho Chi Minh City's police chief, who prosecutors now say was on the crime sydicate's payroll.
Crime and corruption are two of the hottest issues in Vietnam, with the Communist Party eager to prove that it can control them. Wednesday's verdict aims to show the party is not afraid to go after its own to fight corruption.
Whether it will convince the court of public opinion remains to be seen.