A Vietnamese official was sentenced to life in prison Monday for accepting bribes on a Japanese-funded road project he managed, in a scandal that prompted Japan to suspend aid for several months, state media reported Monday.
Huynh Ngoc Si was convicted of receiving $262,000 from executives of Pacific Consultants International, or PCI, a Japanese company hired as consultants on the project, the official Vietnam News Agency said. The court also ordered the confiscation of the money received in bribes, it said.
Court officials were not available for comment Monday.
Si had earlier denied the charge, saying he was slandered by the Japanese executives, but the judges rejected his claim, saying that the court had seen sufficient evidence for the conviction, VNA said.
VNA quoted the judges as saying Si's bribery case cast a negative "impact on Vietnam's image in the international community and the fight against corruption." It also hindered the country's policy to attract development loans from foreign partners, it said.
"The extent of Si's crime is especially serious and the amount of money paid in bribes is huge," VNA quoted the judges as saying.
Four Japanese PCI executives pleaded guilty in a Tokyo court in November 2008 to paying $820,000 in bribes to Si.
Following that case, Japan, which is Vietnam's biggest donor country, suspended hundreds of millions of dollars in development loans in December 2008 and demanded that Hanoi make more vigorous efforts to combat corruption. The aid was resumed the next year.
Vietnam has handed down dozens of lengthy jail sentences to corrupt officials in the past few years.