The Vietnamese Communist Party has suspended an official accused of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from a Japanese company while in charge of HCM City’s largest infrastructure project, a party official said Friday. The accused official, Huynh Ngoc Si, had already been relieved in late November from his government posts as director of HCM City’s East-West Highway Project and deputy director of the city’s Department of Transportation.
On Thursday, Si was suspended from his Communist Party posts as well.
Si is accused of taking 820,000 dollars in kickbacks between 2003 and 2006 from the Japanese firm Pacific Consultants International (PCI). The case has already put several Japanese executives in jail.
“Si was not shocked, but calm, when I announced the decision” to suspend him, said Ho Hoang Son, head of the Party’s supervisory committee for the HCM City Department of Transportation.
“If he is found guilty, we will expel him from the party,” Son said. “But if he is innocent, we will consider resuming his posts.”
On November 12, four PCI officials accused of bribing Si pleaded guilty in Tokyo district court to violating the Unfair Competition Prevention Law, which bans Japanese citizens from bribing foreign government officials.
The case led to public anger in Japan, but until recently Vietnam said it lacked evidence to investigate Si.
Last week, at an annual meeting of foreign aid donors to Vietnam, Japan announced it was halting all new official development assistance (ODA) to Vietnam until authorities investigated the case thoroughly. Japan provided Vietnam with over 200 million dollars in ODA in 2007.
On Tuesday, Vietnamese police announced they were opening an investigation into the PCI case.
Vietnamese media have noted legal discrepancies which could prove an obstacle to prosecution. Vietnam may find it difficult to summon the four convicted Japanese executives as witnesses in the case because the two countries have not signed an extradition treaty.