US bribe claims threaten trade deal

AS HE seeks to defuse the crisis over Somalia, Bill Clinton is under separate threat from allegations of bribe-taking by a senior Cabinet member that could derail progress towards lifting Washington's trade embargo against Vietnam, in place ever since the defeat of the US-backed government in Saigon more than 18 years ago.

The controversy centres on accusations, now under investigation by a federal grand jury in Florida, that Ron Brown, Commerce Secretary and former Democratic party chairman, agreed to accept dollars 700,000 (pounds 460,000) channelled through exiled Vietnamese businessmen in return for helping to lift the economic sanctions.

Thus far, the case is anything but proven. No directly incriminating evidence has been produced, and Mr Brown has dismissed the allegations as 'preposterous' and 'absurd'. The President himself has gone out of his way to display his support for a man who played an important part in his election campaign.

But there is no mistaking the nervousness in the White House, as further details have emerged in the past few days. Mr Brown's main accuser, a bankrupt Miami businessman called Ly Tranh Binh, has passed an FBI lie-detector test, while the Bureau, according to press reports this week, is on the track of mysterious bank accounts in Singapore. Moreover, dents in the Commerce Secretary's original story have emerged.

Reversing earlier denials, Mr Brown now acknowledges he did meet a key middleman in the affair three times, most recently last February, though he insists the contacts were utterly innocuous. Nor is he helped by his background as a high-powered Washington lobbyist, with clients ranging from Japanese multinationals to the 'Baby Doc' Duvalier regime in Haiti. These activities stirred considerable criticism before his confirmation by the Senate last January.

Whatever else, the affair is heaven-sent for conservative Republicans and Vietnam veterans' groups adamantly opposed to normalisation or relations with Hanoi until the fate of US servicemen still unaccounted for is resolved.

Much is riding on the outcome for both countries. Vietnam wants to attract US investment to speed the modernisation of its economy, while US companies are no less anxious to enter a huge potential market which is already being tapped by their Japanese and European competitors.

West invests, page 34

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Savvy Media Ltd: Media Sales executive - Crawley

£25k + commission + benefits: Savvy Media Ltd: Find a job you love and never h...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Solicitor NQ+ Oxford

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible