Vietnam arrests four railway officials in Japan’s ODA scandal

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Motorists wait at a railway crossings in Ho Chi Minh City. PHOTO: MAI VONG
Investigators arrested a senior official and three of his subordinates at the state-owned Vietnam Railways on Saturday (May 3) for allegedly accepting VND16 billion (US$760,000) in bribes from a Japanese company, local media reported Tuesday.
A Vietnam Railways source allegedly told Tien Phong newspaper that the arrestees include the company’s Deputy General Director Tran Quoc Dong and three unnamed officials at the company’s project management unit.
Meanwhile, Giao Thong Van Tai newspaper unveiled the names of the other three, saying they are two project management unit deputy directors, Pham Quang Duy and Pham Hai Bang, and their subordinate Nguyen Nam Thai.
Dong once served as head of the company’s international relations section and director of its project management unit.
On May 5, a Vietnam Railways official told Tien Phong that the company has suspended Tran Van Luc, director of the project management unit, indefinitely, following allegations that he took bribes from the Tokyo-based company Japan Transportation Consultants, Inc. (JTC).
Deputy Transport Minister Nguyen Hong Truong hasn't confirmed news of the arrests.
“Investigators are probing independently and have yet to issue an official statement to the ministry,” he told Tien Phong in the evening of May 5.
Early last month, fourteen railroad officials suspected of having taken bribes from JTC in exchange for awarding the Japanese company a contract for an ODA-funded project denied any wrongdoing.
Four had already been suspended following the Japanese media's coverage of the case.
On March 21, Yomiuri Shimbun reported that JTC president Tamio Kakinuma admitted that his company paid an official 80 million yen (US$782,000) to get a contract worth 4.2 billion yen ($41 million) in Vietnam.
The kickback was said to have been paid to a senior official in an office responsible for project administration at the state-owned Vietnam Railways.
In another case involving Vietnam’s transport sector, Transport Minister Dinh La Thang suspended Director Nguyen Huu Thang of the Railway Department on April 25 for comments the latter made about broad public criticism following news that a long-stalled elevated railway project in Hanoi would require additional US$339 million to complete.
Thang was quoted by Tien Phong newspaper as saying "a little adjustment has inspired so much fanfare."  
Minister Dinh La Thang said the comment affected the prestige of the transport ministry and ordered director Nguyen Huu Thang to report about his role in the cost inflation.
In a recent development, the Party Unit’s Civil Affairs Board at the Transport Ministry has approved a plan to appoint a new general director of Vietnam Railways.
Nguyen Dat Tuong will be replaced by his deputy Vu Ta Tung.
During many meetings, Thang has criticized poor management at Vietnam Railways leading to sluggish development of the sector.

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