Huynh Ngoc Si is accused of taking at least $262,000 in bribes between 2001 to 2003 from Pacific Consultants International, or PCI, the Japanese company hired as a consultant on a project he oversaw, the court official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The trial in Ho Chi Minh City is expected to last until Monday, he said.

Four Japanese PCI executives pleaded guilty in a Tokyo court in November 2008 to paying $820,000 in bribes to Si.

Following that case, Japan, which is Vietnam's biggest donor country, temporarily suspended hundreds of millions of dollars in development loans in December 2008 and demanded that Hanoi make more vigorous efforts to combat corruption.

Si is already serving a six-year jail term for a separate corruption conviction. He was sentenced to three years in September 2009 for stealing $2,900 in office rent to PCI. In March this year an appeals court increased his jail term to six years.

Corruption is rampant in Vietnam and the ruling Communist Party has made fighting it one of its top priorities. The cases are covered extensively in the state-controlled media.

Vietnam has handed down dozens of lengthy jail sentences to corrupt officials in the past few years, and in some high-profile cases those convicted of graft have been executed.

The Associated Press - October 15, 2010