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Ex-PCI head, 3 others held over ODA bribes
The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prosecutors on Monday arrested four men, including a former president of Pacific Consultants International, on suspicion of providing a Vietnamese official with about 90 million yen in bribes in connection with road construction projects in Vietnam undertaken with official development assistance from Japan.
Masayoshi Taga, 62, the former head of PCI, Kunio Takasu, 65, the firm’s former managing director, Haruo Sakashita, 62, a PCI board member, and Tsuneo Sakano, 58, former director of the firm’s Hanoi office, were arrested by the special investigation squad of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office.
Taga and Takasu reportedly admitted to the charges.
They are suspected of violating a law against unfair competition that prohibits the bribing of foreign government officials.
The case is the first uncovered by prosecutors over bribery in a foreign country concerning an ODA project. The prosecutors said they would uncover all the malpractices used to secure the ODA project.
The ODA project in question involved the construction of an east-to-west trunk road in Ho Chi Minh City. PCI won consulting contracts from Ho Chi Minh City worth a total of about 3.1 billion yen in fiscal 2001 and 2003.
According to the prosecutors, the Vietnamese official who took the bribes was Huynh Ngoc Si, director of a section of the Ho Chi Minh City government in charge of constructing the trunk road.
They reportedly gave Si 600,000 dollars (worth about 64 million yen at the exchange rate at the time) in December 2003 and 220,000 dollars (about 26 million yen) in August 2006, in return for the official’s role in helping the firm secure the project and similar favors in the future.
Sakashita reportedly ordered Sakano, who was director of the firm’s Hanoi office at that time, to give the official the bribe in 2003. Sakano and Takasu gave the money to Si at the office of his city government section.
Taga had reportedly been informed of the 2006 bribe beforehand.
The duration of the statute of limitations for the bribing of foreign government officials, which is currently five years, was only three years up to November 2005, so the corresponding statute of limitations has already expired for the 2003 bribery.
However, Sakashita, Takasu and Sakano, who is suspected only in the 2003 case, were arrested nevertheless since the statute of limitations is considered suspended for people during prolonged stays overseas.
Taga, then the chief of PCI’s sales department, has admitted he approved the 2006 bribe given to the Ho Chi Minh City government official.
In June, the special prosecutors team asked the Vietnamese judicial authorities via a diplomatic channel to cooperate with them in the PCI case. The team has been conducting investigations since then, while dispatching investigators to Vietnam.
Only one previous case involving the bribing of a foreign government official has come to light. The case involved former Kyudenko Corp. employees who were served summary indictments by the court in March last year for giving sets of golf clubs worth about 800,000 yen to high-ranking Philippine government officials.
Taga was already indicted on a charge of padding bills in connection with a Japanese government project to dispose of chemical weapons abandoned by the Imperial Japanese Army during the closing days of World War II.
An official of the Vietnamese government contacted by The Yomiuri Shimbun declined to comment on the arrests. The Vietnamese government has not made any statement concerning the case.
(Aug. 5, 2008)