Japanese bribery probe puts Vietnam Railways ex-head in custody

By Thai Son, Thanh Nien News

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Nguyen Huu Bang, former general director and board chairman of Vietnam Railways. Photo: Truong Son Nguyen Huu Bang, former general director and board chairman of Vietnam Railways. Photo: Truong Son


The former Vietnam Railways director has been jailed pending an investigation into a US$782,000 bribery case that occurred on his watch, the transport minister said Wednesday.
Nguyen Huu Bang served as general director and board chairman of the company until 2012.
At some point between 2008 and 2009, a Japanese contractor allegedly bribed officials in Indonesia, Uzbekistan and Vietnam to secure work on Japanese aid projects.
During the sidelines of a government meeting, Minister Dinh La Thang said that Bang is being investigated to determine what role, if any, he played in the alleged crime.
Bang’s family reported that he'd been summoned by the police on May 22 and hadn't returned.
Ngo Anh Tao, deputy general director of Vietnam Railways (the country's state-owned railway operator) has also been summoned many times to clarify aspects of the investigation, Thang said.
Police launched their investigation in April after Japan’s Yomiuri newspaper broke the story about the bribes.
The paper reported that someone from the Tokyo-based Transportation Consultants (JTC) Inc. allegedly handed a VR executive cash to secure a $41 million public contract to build the Urban Railway No.1 in Hanoi which is funded with Japanese Official Development Assistance (ODA).
Thang said the ministry has been auditing transport projects that involved JTC and will announce any findings after they finalize the results of their investigation.
“The ministry inspectors are still looking into it,” he said, adding that he's ordered a review of all ODA-funded transportation projects during that period.
Meanwhile, he claimed that work on the Hanoi railway project is continuing as scheduled.
However, VnExpress reported that Japan suspended funding to the project, on Wednesday, citing comments from Nguyen Xuan Tien, deputy head of the Foreign Economic Relations Department at the Ministry of Investment and Planning.
Six other Vietnam Railway officials have since been arrested in the case.
Deputy general director Tran Quoc Dong was arrested and charged with criminal negligence while five others (all senior officials) from the company’s Project Management Unit, were accused of abuse of power.
The Japanese story, published on March 20 said JTC also paid Indonesian and Uzbek officials some 20 million yen to secure ODA contracts.

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