Vietnam, Japan establish anti-corruption committee

By Mai Ha, Thanh Nien News

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A joint anti-corruption committee has been founded by Vietnam and Japan in the wake of the latest bribe-taking allegations made against a Vietnamese official by an executive of a Japanese company.
The Ministry of Transport announced on Friday that the committee was established with the consent of Minister Dinh La Thang and Japanese Ambassador to Vietnam Fukada Hiroshi at a meeting that same day.
The committee will enable the two countries to exchange information on the graft case related to the Japan Transportation Consultants, Inc. (JTC) and Vietnam Railways, the state-owned operator of the country's railway system.
It will also work on measures to prevent similar cases in the future through changes to mechanisms and policies, according to the ministry.
The committee will organize its first meeting next week in Hanoi.
Last week the Japan News, an English news website run by Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, reported that Tamio Kakinuma, president JTC, had admitted that his company had paid an official 80 million yen (US$782,000) in return for an ODA (official development assistance) project order worth 4.2 billion yen ($41 million) in Vietnam.
The kickback was said to have been paid to a senior official with an office responsible for project administration at 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 between February 2008 and this February to obtain orders for five ODA projects.
After the case was exposed, the ministry suspended four officials with Vietnam Railways, including one incumbent and three former directors of the company’s project management unit.
It also ordered investigations into Vietnam Railways’ projects with JTC.
The Japanese company has been contracted for 14 projects in Vietnam, including five ODA-backed railway projects since 1993, Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reported.
In 2008, another senior Vietnamese official was also charged with taking bribes in 2003 from a Tokyo-based company in connection with a major infrastructure project – a highway linking the east and west of Ho Chi Minh City – also backed by Japanese ODA.
Huynh Ngoc Si, former deputy director of the HCMC's transport department and head of the project, was originally sentenced to life in prison in 2010. Si was convicted of receiving $262,000 from executives of Pacific Consultants International, or PCI, which was hired as a consultant on the project.
An appeal reduced his sentence to 20 years in 2011.
The case rocked the country, prompting Japan, then Vietnam's biggest donor country, to suspend hundreds of millions of dollars in development loans in December 2008. Japan resumed the aid a year later.

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