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February 17, 2009

Vietnam to urge Japan to resume loans

Vietnam's Planning and Investment Minister Vo Hong Phuc plans to visit Japan later this month to urge the Japanese government to resume government loans to Vietnam, Kyodo news agency quoted Vietnamese government sources as saying Monday.

Japan has frozen its yen loan program to Vietnam since a Japanese business consultancy firm was found to have paid bribes to Ho Chi Minh City officials in connection with a Japanese official development assistance project.

Phuc plans to leave for Tokyo on Saturday and to stay in Japan for a few days, the sources said. A senior Ho Chi Minh City official, who is suspected of taking bribes from Pacific Consultants International, a Tokyo-based consultancy involved with Japan's ODA projects, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of abuse of his power as he allegedly embezzled money from the office.

Japan has suspended 65.3 billion yen in low-interest loans that had been earmarked for Vietnam for the first half of fiscal 2008 and has said it will not resume official aid to Vietnam unless the country takes effective measures against corruption.

Former Pacific Consultants International President Masayoshi Taga and three other PCI executives were arrested last August on suspicion of giving around $820,000 in bribes to the director of the Ho Chi Minh City office in charge of the construction of an expressway.

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