Ex-officials get longer sentence in Japanese graft case

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The Appeals Court in Ho Chi Minh City on Wednesday increased the jail terms of two officials to six and five years for corruption while in charge of a Japanese-aided infrastructure project.

The court heard that the first trial had failed to assess all consequences caused by the violations committed by Huynh Ngoc Si, former head of the East-West Highway project, and his deputy, Le Qua.

Si and Qua were found guilty of abuse of power in renting an office to Tokyo-based Pacific Consultants International (PCI) from August 2001 to November 2002 without reporting the lease in order to pocket US$67,300 in rental income.

Their violations, in fact, made the Vietnamese government suffer losses of nearly VND1.2 billion, and badly affected its prestige among the people, as well as in Japan and the world, prosecutors said to the second trial.

The two former officials had been sentenced to three and two years in jail respectively last October.

Meanwhile, the People's Supreme Procuracy Vietnam's highest prosecutor's office earlier this year approved an investigation into allegations that Si had accepted millions of dollars in bribes from four PCI former executives in return for awarding contracts under the East-West Highway project to the Japanese company.

The accusations were made by the executives at a trial in Tokyo on November 11, 2008. They were then standing trial for violations of Japan's Unfair Competition Prevention Law, which bans the bribing of foreign government officials.

The scandal led Tokyo to temporarily suspend official development assistance (ODA) loans to Vietnam in December the same year. It announced the resumption of aid later after Vietnam's Ministry of Public Security launched an investigation into the case.

However, it was only after the translation of 4,000 pages of materials, mainly in English, that were received from Japanese authorities that Vietnamese inspectors placed Si under investigation.

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