Vietnam official denies corruption as trial begins

HANOI, Friday 15 October 2010 (AFP) - A Vietnamese transport official who could face the death penalty over a scandal that led Japan to suspend aid denied corruption charges as his trial opened Friday, local media said.

Huynh Ngoc Sy has been accused of taking bribes of up to 262,000 dollars from a Tokyo-based company, an official at the Ho Chi Minh City court told AFP, adding that the trial may conclude on Monday.

Sy is already serving a six-year sentence for pocketing rent paid by the same firm for the use of state-owned offices.

Earlier media reports quoted prosecutors as saying Sy received the bribes from officials of Pacific Consultants International (PCI) to ensure it would win bids related to the city's east-west highway in 2001 and 2002.

Japanese aid money backed the project.

Sy, who was deputy director of Ho Chi Minh City's transport department at the time and headed a team in charge of major road schemes, denied the latest accusation, according to the VNExpress news site.

"I reject the whole indictment. I did not make a deal, did not receive bribes, did not do anything of benefit to PCI," he was quoted as saying.

The scandal broke in 2008, leading Japan to halt new aid loans to Vietnam. Japan decided to resume aid to the communist nation in March 2009 after seeing its efforts on the case.

The court convened 13 witnesses for Friday's hearing including three Japanese who did not show up, the Thanh Nien newspaper reported on its website.

Last year a court in Japan gave a suspended jail sentence to former PCI president Masayoshi Taga for bribing Sy seven times with a total of 820,000 dollars in order to secure contracts.

MySinchew 2010.10.15