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Vietnam minister seeks to resign in graft scandal

Written by: Staff

HANOI, Apr 4: Vietnam's Transport Minister has offered to resign over a multi-million dollar bribery and gambling scandal and mounting public criticism of wrongdoing in his ministry, the Voice of Vietnam Radio said today.

The broadcast said minister Dao Dinh Binh, 61, filed a letter of resignation yesterday as the ruling Communist Party's Politburo met after Prime Minister Phan Van Khai took the unusual step of proposing Binh's suspension.

There was no immediate word from the Party, which has periodic anti-graft campaigns, often before its five-yearly National Congress. The gathering, the most important event on the political calendar, is scheduled from April 18 to 25 in Hanoi.

''Facing the pressure of the public opinion and the government instructions on the responsibility of the manager over mistakes at his agency, Transport Minister Dao Dinh Binh has written an application to resign,'' the radio report said.

Resignations at ministerial level over corruption are rare in Vietnam. In June 2004, Agriculture Minister Le Huy Ngo resigned over a corruption case in his ministry, the first to do so since Hanoi began economic reforms at the 1986 Party Congress.

The latest scandal broke in late 2005 in the richest state agency in charge of building roads and bridges under the transport ministry. In January, the agency's head confessed to bribery and gambling 7 million dollars on football matches.

He is in police custody and last week, a deputy transport minister was suspended over ties to the boss of the 2 billion dollars agency, known as Project Management Unit (PMU) 18.

The agency receives foreign aid and the scandal has raised concerns among foreign donors, the top two being Japan and the World Bank.

The radio cited the application by Binh, former head of Vietnam Railways Corp before becoming the minister in 2002, as saying he ''did not fulfil responsibility'' related to a train accident last year and the corruption scandal.

In March 2005 an express train derailed in central Vietnam, killing 11 people and injuring 78 others. The Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reported last week that Binh only visited the site nearly two weeks later.

In his letter, Binh took responsibility for wrongdoing, Tien Phong (Vanguard) newspaper reported today.

''I am saddened and painful and ask to be held fully accountable for the cases that happened in the Transport Ministry, at PMU 18 related to the management of capital construction and some serious traffic accidents,'' it quoted the letter as saying.


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