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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 August 2007, 16:24 GMT 17:24 UK
Vietnam officials jailed on graft
Bui Tien Dung
Dung (R) said he had used family money to place his bets
Nine people have been sentenced in Vietnam over a high-profile gambling and bribery scandal that led a senior government minister to resign in 2006.

Former transport ministry official Bui Tien Dung was jailed for 13 years, seven others for up to seven years and one received a suspended sentence.

They were accused of embezzling funds to place illegal bets on football, although Dung said he used family cash.

Corruption is seen as a major problem in the one-party communist state.

Speaking in Hanoi on Tuesday, World Bank President Robert Zoellick warned of the need to tackle corruption and improve transparency.

Football bets

Dung, the former director of a Ministry of Transport infrastructure body known as PMU18, was sentenced in Hanoi People's Court to six years' jail for illegally gambling $760,000 (380,000) on European football games between 2005 and 2006.

He received a further seven-year sentence for bribery over attempts to cover up the bets, said presiding Judge Ngo Thi Yen.

Dung had told the court that he had gambled family savings due to his "unhappy marital life" and "to kill time," Vietnamese state media reported.

Gambling is illegal in Vietnam.

Six others - including state officials, former police officers and businessmen - were jailed for three to seven years on gambling and bribery charges. One received a two-year suspended sentence for gambling.

The case centred on allegations the PMU18 officials had embezzled money to bet on football games.

'Challenges ahead'

The scandal led to the resignation of former Transport Minister Dao Dinh Binh in April 2006.

His deputy, Nguyen Viet Tien, was arrested in connection with the case but has not been charged.

Ministerial resignations are extremely rare in Vietnam and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung launched a major anti-corruption push after the scandal broke.

The PMU18 agency builds infrastructure such as roads and bridges with foreign aid loans, and police are still investigating whether that cash was used in the betting.

Japan, the EU and the World Bank are amongst donors who have previously provided funds to PMU18, but an internal World Bank inquiry found no evidence of fraud and corruption in projects it had funded.

Speaking on a visit to Vietnam, Mr Zoellick described the country's efforts to tackle poverty as a "tremendous success" that could serve as a model for other countries.

Mr Zoellick said the country's financial progress was a result of its "ability to leverage the openness of the international trading system". Vietnam joined the World Trade Organisation this year.

But he warned of the need improve governance, transparency, the rule of law and financial systems, saying the country had "big challenges ahead".

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26 Jan 07 |  Asia-Pacific
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14 Jun 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Gambling and graft in Vietnam
13 Feb 06 |  Asia-Pacific
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04 Apr 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Former Vietnam ministers on trial
17 Nov 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Vietnam
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