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Vietnam official sentenced to life in prison on corruption charges

A Vietnamese court on Monday sentenced former deputy director of the Ministry of Transportation [official website, in Vietnamese] Huynh Ngoc Si to life in prison for accepting bribes [VnExpress report, in Vietnamese] while managing a Japanese-funded road project, according to state news agencies. Si was convicted of receiving USD $262,000 from the Japanese company Pacific Consultants International (PCI) [corporate website] in exchange for negotiating the East-West Highway project in Ho Chi Minh City and granting the winning bid to PCI. PCI allegedly agreed to pay Si 10 percent of the total value of the contract. The judges previously rejected claims by Si that Japanese executives falsely accused him. The court noted that Si's crime could affect the prestige and reputation of the citizens of Vietnam.

Si was arrested [Thanh Nein report, in Vietnamese] in February 2009. In November 2008, four Japanese PCI executives pleaded guilty [BBC report, in Vietnamese] in a Tokyo District Court to paying USD $820,000 of bribes to Si in order to win contracts and develop the infrastructure of the East-West Highway Project. In December 2008, Japan withdrew massive development loans [AP report] and demanded that Vietnam address corruption before resuming financial aid in 2009. In 2007, nine defendants, including three former Vietnamese government officials, were accused of involvement in organized gambling and bribery [JURIST report]. Bui Tien Dung, a former project management head in the Ministry of Transportation, allegedly placed bets totaling USD $760,000 on European soccer matches and subsequently attempted to cover up the alleged wrongdoing by paying a bribe of USD $68,000. Dung headed the Project Manage Unit (PMU) 18, which is responsible for the construction of roads and bridges and is a recipient of aid from the World Bank [official website] and other countries. The World Bank found no evidence of fraud or corruption [press release] after conducting an independent review of PMU 18, although it noted shortcomings in transparency and accounting structures.

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