Wednesday, February 07, 2007

World Bank checks impact of Vietnam football graft

A World Bank investigation into an international football betting scheme using public funds from a Vietnamese building agency found the bank’s project money was not misused, an official said. "We have made a number of suggestions to the government about how procurement processes can be improved and some of the weaknesses we did find in the financial arrangements of the project," said Jim Adams, World Bank vice president for the Asia Pacific region. The probe began last June after the multi-million-dollar scandal was disclosed at the transport ministry's Project Management Unit 18 (PMU-18). The World Bank had disbursed around $80 million to PMU-18 for about 1,000 different projects, an AFP report quoted Country Director Klaus Rohland as saying at that time. He had threatened to cancel the credit and ask Vietnam for a refund if the WB funds were found misused, according to the report.

The scandal rocked the country last year and led to the resignation of the transport minister. Several senior officials, including a deputy transport minister, were arrested. The lid was blown off the scandal when the police arrested PMU-18 Director Bui Tien Dung in January 2006 for gambling, an illegal act in Vietnam. He reportedly bet some US$2 million on European football matches using PMU-18 money. Vietnamese police last month wrapped up their investigation in the case, charging the former deputy transport minister and the PMU-18 director each on four counts. Other PMU-18 officials also faced charges. According to Thanh Nien newspaper, the police have filed the report with the Supreme Procuracy.

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