Jailed former official to be tried for taking bribes

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Vietnam's supreme prosecutor's office issued an indictment Thursday against a former official who is alleged to have accepted US$262,000 in bribes while overseeing a major development project in Ho Chi Minh City.

 

The Supreme Procuracy has accused Huynh Ngoc Si, former vice director of the city's Department of Transport, of committing crimes that could result in a death sentence - if he is convicted.

 

Si, who is currently serving time for "abuse of power," has denied all wrongdoing.

According to the official indictment, Si was assigned to oversee the East-West Highway Project on September 26, 2000. Over VND14 trillion (US$718.5 million) in foreign and domestic funds had been set aside for the project.

 

In January, 2001 the project's management board invited five companies, including the Tokyo-based Pacific Consultants International (PCI) firm, to bid on the project.

 

According to prosecutors in both Japan and Vietnam, PCI's officials bribed Si in an effort to win a consulting and supervision role on the project. The indictment further alleges that Si took steps to ensure that PCI was treated generously after they had been selected for the job.

 

Prosecutors say that after several meetings, PCI agreed to pay Si 11 percent, or $1.7 million, of a supervision contract, and 10 percent, or $900,000, of a consulting contract.

 

Officials from the Japanese Ministry of Justice claim that on May 28, 2005 Si accepted $262,000 from Sakano Tsuneo, chief representative of PCI in Vietnam, and Takasu Kunio, former managing director of PCI at his office.

 

On November 11, 2009 while standing trial in Tokyo, PCI leaders testified that they had bribed Si on six additional occasions. Japan prosecuted the officials for offering $820,000 in bribes.

 

Vietnam is bringing Si to trial for the afformentioned bribes while continuing to investigate the further allegations. The deadline for the initial investigation has ended, according to prosecutors, creating something of a time crunch.

 

Si is currently serving a six-year jail term for illegally leasing office space to PCI from August 2001 and November 2002 and pocketing VND1.2 billion (current $62,959) from the agreement.

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