Vietnam PM pledges to probe Japan graft case

A man watches a live broadcast of Vietnamese prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung speaking at the national assembly

A man watches a live broadcast of Vietnamese prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung speaking at the national assembly

HANOI (AFP) — Vietnam’s premier pledged Thursday to probe a corruption case in which Japanese businessmen have admitted bribing a Vietnamese official in the latest scandal involving a foreign aid-funded road project.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung was answering a question in the National Assembly on whether his government had taken any action so far in the graft case involving Tokyo-based Pacific Consultants International (PCI).

Former PCI executives facing a Tokyo court earlier this week admitted paying 820,000 dollars in bribes since 2002 to Huynh Ngoc Sy, the head of Ho Chi Minh City’s project management unit, the Yomiuri Shimbun daily reported.

Dung said that, following the reports, Vietnam had requested details on the case but that “it took a long time” for Japan to send the file, which he said “does not have proper legal grounds.”

Speaking in a legislative question-and-answer session, Dung said “we have asked our investigators to cooperate and receive (the file) to clarify this. And we will deal with the case in accordance with Vietnamese laws.”

The Japanese newspaper reported this week that PCI and four of its former executives are on trial in Tokyo, charged with violating the Unfair Competition Prevention Law that bans paying bribes to foreign government officials.

The defendants were named in the report as former PCI president Masayoshi Taga, 62, former managing director Kunio Takasu, 65, former board director Haruo Sakashita, 62, and former Hanoi office chief Tsuneo Sakano, 59.

Prosecutors claimed PCI had promised Sy 2.6 million dollars for favours in awarding consulting contracts to the firm in connection with overseas development assistance (ODA)-financed road projects in 2001 and 2003.

They also charged that the executives had padded expenses for the projects to ensure profits after paying the bribes, and that they paid the Vietnamese official a total of 820,000 dollars between 2002 and 2006.

Vietnam was rocked by another major graft scandal in 2005 and 2006 when officials pilfered funds from the transport ministry’s infrastructure division PMU 18, which had received funding from the World Bank, Japan and other donors.

Several PMU 18 officials later went to prison, and the government of Dung pledged a major anti-corruption crackdown that was welcomed by donors and foreign business groups who have long complained of graft in Vietnam.

However, last month, a court in Vietnam jailed a journalist and a police source who had helped expose the PMU 18 graft case, on charges of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state.”

Dung, speaking on the PCI case, said “the responsible agencies are working on this, and we have established a joint committee to fight and prevent corruption in the use of ODA, and Japan appreciates this.”

AFP: Vietnam PM pledges to probe Japan graft case

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