2 deputy PMs to lead Vietnam probe into ODA-linked bribery charge

By Mai Ha, Thanh Nien News

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Two deputy prime ministers will head the joint probe with Japanese agencies into a Japanese company’s  allegation that it paid bribes to a railway official.
Nguyen Van Nen, the government spokesman, made the announcement at a press conference Tuesday.
He said the Ministry of Transport and some other agencies have already begun investigations.
He quoted PM Nguyen Tan Dung as telling his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, on the sidelines of a recent summit that the two countries should work together “closely” to investigate the case “carefully” and handle it “strictly.”

Last month Japan News, an English news website run by Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, reported that Tamio Kakinuma, president of JTC, had admitted that his company paid an official 80 million yen (US$782,000) to win an ODA (official development assistance) project bid worth 4.2 billion yen ($41 million) in Vietnam.
The kickback was said to have been paid to a senior official in an office responsible for project administration at state-owned Vietnam Railways.
JTC is alleged to have paid a total of 130 million yen ($1.27 million) to foreign civil servants in Indonesia, Vietnam, and Uzbekistan since February 2008 to win five ODA projects.
After the revelation, the Vietnamese transport ministry suspended four officials, including a director of the Vietnam Railways’ project management unit and three of his predecessors.
It also ordered investigations into Vietnam Railways’ projects with JTC, which has been won 14 bids, including five ODA-backed ones since 1993.
A delegation led by Deputy Minister of Transport Nguyen Ngoc Dong visited Japan to seek information but were refused since authorities there have begun their own investigations.
In 2008 Vietnam was rocked by a similar scandal when Huynh Ngoc Si, deputy director of the Ho Chi Minh City transport department and head of a major highway project, was charged with taking bribes in 2003 from Tokyo-based Pacific Consultants International for the highway project, also funded by Japanese aid.
Si was sentenced to life for receiving $262,000 in bribes following a trial in 2010, but it was reduced to 20 years by an appeal court the following year.
The scandal caused Japan, Vietnam's biggest ODA donor, to suspend development loans worth hundreds of millions of dollars in December 2008, but the aid resumed four months later.

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