Jail term doubled for ex-official in Japanese graft case

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Two former senior officials convicted of corruption and sent to jail last fall received stiffer sentences at an appeal this week.

Huynh Ngoc Si, former head of the Ho Chi Minh City's East-West Highway Project Management Unit (PMU) and vice director of the city's Transport Department, was sentenced to six years in jail double his previous sentence for abuse of power.

Si's deputy Le Qua was sentenced to five years in prison for the same conviction. He had been sentenced to two years in the earlier verdict.

The board of judges at the HCMC Supreme People's Court said they found evidence showing the defendants were responsible for pocketing VND1.2 billion (current US$62,959) while illegally leasing office space to the Tokyo-based Pacific Consultants International (PCI) from August 2001 to November 2002.

The defendants' appeals for more lenient sentences were rejected because their acts were "extremely serious" and affected the government's reputation, the judges said.

Prosecutors had aimed for jail terms of between five and seven years each for Si and Qua.

In September 2009, the HCMC Court of First Instance sentenced Si to three year's imprisonment for a conviction on abuse of power while Le Qua was sentenced to two years in jail for the same charge.

The two-day trial was sought by prosecutors at the Supreme People's Procuracy Vietnam's highest prosecutor's office who argued that Si and Qua should receive stiffer prison sentences.

In December last year, the Supreme People's Procuracy approved another 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.

Si and Qua were arrested in February 2009 after a Japanese court convicted three Japanese PCI executives of violating the Unfair Competition Prevention Law, which bans the bribing of foreign government officials.

The executives, who were given suspended sentences of 18 to 24 months, admitted to bribing Si with $2.3 million between 2002 and 2006 in exchange for helping the company win a consulting contract on the project, daily Japanese newspaper Yomiuri reported in November 2008.

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