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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 April 2006, 01:42 GMT 02:42 UK
Crisis dogs Vietnam congress
By Clare Harkey
BBC East Asia regional editor

Banner in Hanoi announces Communist Party congress
The scandal has dominated headlines in Vietnam
On an almost daily basis, Vietnam's press has been revealing more about the corruption claims that has caused widespread anxiety in the country.

The scandal centres around a transport ministry project management bureau known as PMU-18 - the government's richest state agency.

It manages around $2bn for road construction and other infrastructure projects, using government money as well as funds from overseas donors, notably Japan, the European Union, Australia and the World Bank.

The first sign that something was seriously wrong in PMU-18 came when the head of the bureau was arrested in January and accused of taking around $7m of the unit's budget for gambling on European football matches.

He is also under investigation over the procurement of luxury cars for other government officials.

Deputy Transport Minister Nguyen Viet Tien - a former head of PMU-18 and also a member of the ruling Communist Party's Central Committee - was next to be detained. And earlier this month, the transport minister himself, Dao Dinh Binh, resigned.

It seemed he was pushed into the move by high-ranking Party officials.

Top issue

Vietnamese press reports say it is also beginning to look as if the PMU-18 network extends into the office of Prime Minister Phan Van Khai, and into senior police ranks.

In recent years the government has taken action against corruption, making officials declare their income and passing laws against money-laundering.

The authorities have promised that this scandal will be fully investigated too.

And they have promised to put the issue at the top of the congress agenda.

But it is a delicate balancing act - scandals like this undermine public confidence in the authorities and risks precious foreign aid.

The World Bank and Japan have already announced that they are sending delegations to Vietnam to investigate.


SEE ALSO:
Communist debate grips Vietnam
02 Mar 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Vietnam ministry hit by scandal
04 Apr 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Gambling and graft in Vietnam
13 Feb 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Vietnam party eyeing capitalists
18 Jul 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Former Vietnam ministers on trial
17 Nov 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Scandal clouds Vietnam's reforms
18 Jul 02 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Vietnam
03 Jan 06 |  Country profiles


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