Vietnam asked to return bribe in Japan’s ODA project

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Hanoi's first high-rise railway has been halted after a Japanese firm admitted to having bribed Vietnamese officials to secure the project. File photo Hanoi's first high-rise railway has been halted after a Japanese firm admitted to having bribed Vietnamese officials to secure the project. File photo

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Japan will resume government aid to a US$41 million railway in Hanoi once Vietnam returns $782,000 bribe its state railway firm received from a Japanese contractor to grant them the project, a Japanese agency said.
Yamamoto Kenichi, representative of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), said at a press briefing in Hanoi Wednesday that Japan will continue providing official development assistance (ODA) fund to the project after Vietnam returns the money Tokyo-based Transportation Consultants (JTC) Inc. had bribed executives at Vietnam Railways, the country’s state-owned railway operator.
Japan’s Yomiuri newspaper broke the story early last year, prompting investigation both in Japan and Vietnam.
Japanese prosecutors last July pressed charges against JTC and three of its executives for allegedly bribing officials in Vietnam, Indonesia, and Uzbekistan around 160 million yen (US$1.58 million) between February 2008 and February 2014 to win contracts funded with Japan's ODA.
Vietnam has suspended scores of implicated officials and arrested six people, including Tran Quoc Dong, deputy general director of Vietnam Railways.
Kenichi said JICA will work with Vietnam’s Finance Ministry and Ministry of Investment and Planning to find an independent supervision unit for the project to make sure work goes on efficiently.
The scandal prompted the Japanese government to suspend new ODA funding to Vietnam in early June last year.
But Tokyo resumed all aid in late July on the condition that Vietnam commit to investigating all ODA projects involving JTC and Vietnam Railways and pledge specific measures to stop future graft.
Kenichi said the Hanoi railway scandal is the second one since 2008 regarding ODA projects from Vietnam’s top donor Japan.
He called for no more graft case or Japanese people will force their government to stop providing ODA to Vietnam.
In 2008 Huynh Ngoc Si -- the former deputy director of the Ho Chi Minh City's transport department and head of a major Japanese ODA-backed highway project -- was convicted of receiving $262,000 in 2003 from executives at Pacific Consultants International, which was hired as the project consultant.
The case forced Japan to suspend hundreds of millions of dollars in development loans in December 2008. But Tokyo resumed the aid four months later.
Si was originally sentenced to life in prison in 2010 but an appeals court in 2011 reduced his term to 20 years.

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