Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court sentenced a former transport official charged with “taking bribes” in a Japanese-funded road project to life imprisonment, on October 18.

Huynh Ngoc Si, former head of the management board of the East-West Avenue project, was accused of taking bribes of up to 262,000 USD from executives of Pacific Consultants International (PCI), a Japanese company hired as the project’s consultants.

Si, 53, who is also a former Deputy Director of the city’s Transport Department, is currently serving six years in prison for “abusing his position and power while performing official duties”. The court also ordered the confiscation of the money that he received in bribes.

The case was brought to light, after the Japanese Government provided a number of documents to Vietnam , including the testimonies of several PCI officials made in a Tokyo court, who admitted paying bribes to Si so that the company could win the contracts.

Vietnam ’s police investigated the case and collected evidence according to the country’s Code of Criminal Procedures and the Law on Legal Assistance.

According to the judges, Si’s bribery case casts a shadow on Vietnam 's image in the international community and its fight against corruption. It has also hampered Vietnamese Government’s efforts to attract development loans from foreign partners, they said.

“The extent of Si's crime is especially serious and the amount of money paid in bribes is huge,'' the judges stressed.

The Prime Minister had decided to accept foreign bids for the project, but Si had nominated the contractor himself. He paid a deposit to PCI before receiving the final project report, at 20 percent amount higher than the original estimate.

Si also agreed on higher salaries for foreign specialists than the negotiated level and at the same time lowered the salaries of domestic specialists. In turn, he received 262,000 USD from PCI on May 28, 2003 at the project’s management office.

The judges said that Si’s crime was just one of his six acts of bribery and the police will investigate further.

They urged the Ministry of Public Security’s Investigation Agency and the Supreme People’s Procuracy to conduct further investigations to bring Si’s offences to trial./.