Vietnam top official on Japan visit

HANOI (AFP) — Vietnam’s most powerful official, Communist Party General Secretary Nong Duc Manh, was to arrive Sunday for an official visit to Japan, the country’s largest bilateral aid donor, the government said.

It is the second visit to Japan by Manh, whose last mission there was in 2002, the government said.

Manh was to stay until Wednesday.

“The trip is expected to beef up Vietnam-Japan exchanges and cooperation in all areas, especially in economy, trade, investment and official development assistance (ODA),” the government said on its website.

The state Vietnam News Agency said Japan is Vietnam’s second-biggest trade partner, after China, and is the country’s second-largest export market after the United States.

Manh’s visit comes less than one month after the two countries signed an agreement resuming the flow of aid loans — known as ODA — suspended during a corruption scandal.

Japan announced in December that it would suspend the loans after former executives of a Tokyo-based consultancy admitted paying kickbacks to a Vietnamese official overseeing a Japanese-funded road project.

In February, Tokyo said Vietnamese officials had given assurances that steps would be taken to prevent similar abuses. That led to the signing in March of a deal for low-interest loans covering infrastructure projects worth 83 billion yen (837 million dollars).

Vietnam has made efforts to improve the legal environment and increase measures to strengthen management and effective use of ODA projects, including fighting corruption.

Japan and Vietnam in December signed an economic partnership pact with a promise to cut tariffs on more than 90 percent of goods and services traded between the two nations within a decade.

Vietnam News Agency said that last year the value of Vietnam-Japan trade exceeded 15.5 billion dollars, and by the end of 2008, Japan had invested more than 17 billion dollars in more than 1,000 projects, ranking it third among foreign investors in Vietnam.


Vietnam detains two in Japanese aid graft case

HANOI, Feb 11 (Reuters) – Vietnamese police have detained two former Ho Chi Minh City officials over accusations they received bribes from Japanese contractors in an affair that has led Japan to suspend official aid.

Anti-corruption police have charged the former head of the city’s East-West Highway project, Huynh Ngoc Si, with “abuse of power” and searched his house on Wednesday, the government said in a report on the case.

Si’s deputy, who was also detained on Wednesday, faces similar charges, it said.

Vietnamese police launched a criminal investigation last December after Tokyo, Vietnam’s biggest aid donor, suspended its assistance. The Japanese foreign ministry said in December that new loans had been suspended since August.

The government report, citing files sent from a district court in Tokyo, said Japanese executives from a Tokyo-based consultancy bribed Si with a total of $2.6 million in return for consulting contracts in 2001-2003 on the $660 million highway project that used about $428 million in Japanese loans.

“Vietnam is resolved to clarify the case according to the law in order to bring it to justice and will not let any specific case affect the good relations between the two countries,” Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet said on Wednesday in a meeting with Japanese Special Ambassador Sugi Ryotaro.

Ryotaro has told Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung the Japanese government was hoping to resume aid to Vietnam by April. (Reporting by Hanoi Newsroom; Editing by Alan Raybould)

Vietnam aid loans suspended

HANOI – JAPAN’S ambassador to Vietnam on Thursday said his country had suspended new aid loans to Hanoi, citing a major corruption scandal that came to light last month.

The move came after former executives of Pacific Consultants International (PCI) last month admitted in a Japanese court to paying kickbacks to a Vietnamese official overseeing a Tokyo-funded road project.

Ambassador Mitsuo Sakaba told an international donors’ meeting in Hanoi that ‘we are unable to pledge new yen loans’ until both countries work out ‘effective and meaningful measures against corruption.’ Japan is Vietnam’s biggest bilateral donor.

‘Following the grave incident, the two governments set up a joint committee to discuss concrete measures to be taken to prevent corruption relating to Japan’s ODA (official development assistance) to Vietnam,’ he said.

‘Until effective and meaningful measures against corruption be worked out through this joint committee, it would be difficult to regain the support from the Japanese public for further assistance to Vietnam, and we are unable to pledge new yen loans.’

Japan last year gave more than a billion dollars in ODA to Vietnam and has been studying several major infrastructure projects, including a new north-south transnational railway and highway and a high-tech industrial park. — AFP

Aso calls on Vietnam to back U.N. resolution on N. Korea

LIMA, Nov. 21 (AP) – (Kyodo)—Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso asked Vietnam on Friday to vote in favor of a U.N. resolution calling on North Korea to improve its human rights situation, a Japanese official said.

During a bilateral meeting in Lima, Aso told Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet that Japan wants to have sufficient support for the resolution to be adopted because North Korea’s decades-old abductions of Japanese nationals is a serious issue.

“I would like to have cooperation from Vietnam,” the senior foreign ministry official quoted Aso as saying during the 45-minute meeting, held ahead of the weekend summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in the Peruvian capital.

The Vietnamese president responded, “I am very aware of the issue and will seriously consider” the request, according to the official.

A draft resolution demanding that North Korea end suspected human rights abuses has been submitted to the U.N. General Assembly every year since 2005. For the past three years, Vietnam has voted against adopting the resolution.

This year’s resolution is expected to be adopted next month.

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