We’ve never come across any good news to report about Japan’s overseas anticorruption enforcement. Until now, that is. Last Thursday, according to an AFP report, a court in Tokyo convicted three former executives and their consulting company for bribery in Vietnam.
The three men — Haruo Sakashita, 62, Kunio Takasu, 66, and Tsuneo Sakano, 59, all former executives of Tokyo-based Pacific Consultants International, or PCI — admitted bribing a senior Vietnamese government official to secure contracts for road projects backed by Japanese aid money. The Japanese press said the former PCI executives admitted paying $820,000 in bribes to Huynh Ngoc Sy, who was then the Ho Chi Minh City senior transport official named in the Tokyo trial. Prosecutors said PCI had promised Sy a total of $2.6 million for awarding consulting contracts to the firm in connection with road projects in Vietnam financed by Japan’s Official Development Assistance program. The scandal caused by the case resulted in Japan’s suspending all aid loans to Vietnam.
“The crime was devious, organized and calculated. PCI systematically supplied cash to foreign government employees with the agreement of the top cadre,” said the Tokyo District Court judge. “This has inevitably led to a loss of confidence in our country’s Official Development Assistance activities, and the result is serious,” he said.
Despite his tough talk, the judge suspended the ¥70 million ($780,000) fine he imposed on the defendants and didn’t sentence the men to any prison time. AFP said in its report, “Japanese courts often spare prison time, particularly for white-collar crime, if the accused admit the allegations.”
Japan is among the 37 countries that have joined the OECD Convention on Combating the Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. But along with the United Kingdom, Japan comes in for regular criticism from the OECD for failing to prosecute overseas bribery. In this case, we suspect the Japanese government was forced to act because tax-payer funded foreign aid was involved.