Vietnam hunts ex-intelligence agents over 'leaking state secrets'

Hanoi (AFP) - Vietnam on Tuesday issued arrest warrants for the former deputy head of central intelligence and his colleague for "disclosing state secrets" amid a widening corruption crackdown targeting political and business heavyweights.

Vietnam hunts ex-intelligence agents over 'leaking state secrets'

Vietnam hunts ex-intelligence agents over 'leaking state secrets'

A new hardline administration, in power since 2016, has gone after former officials, businessmen and bankers accused of graft as the communist nation seeks to polish its image and punish misdeeds.

Critics say the campaign is also driven by political infighting among the country's opaque communist power players.

The central intelligence agency falls under the powerful Ministry of Public Security (MPS), the latest target of the anti-graft sweep, with several high profile arrests in recent weeks.

Authorities issued warrants on Tuesday for former central intelligence deputy chief Phan Huu Tuan and ex-intelligence officer Nguyen Huu Bach for "deliberately revealing state secrets", the ministry said on its website without providing details.

They are suspected of having links to Phan Van Anh Vu, another former intelligence officer who fled to Singapore but was shipped back to Vietnam in January to face charges of disclosing state secrets, tax evasion and abuse of power.

Vu, once a property magnate in the central city of Danang, was accused of having information on former state oil official Trinh Xuan Thanh.

He was allegedly kidnapped by Vietnamese security agents in Germany last year in a daring operations that sparked a major diplomatic row with Berlin.

Hanoi insists he returned to Vietnam voluntarily, and he is now serving two life sentences for separate graft convictions.

The complex corruption case has stunned a country unused to seeing the public demise of high-profile officials, and observers say the anti-graft campaign shows no signs of letting up.

An arrest warrant was also issued Tuesday for the former chairman of the central city and booming tourist hub of Danang, while four others were being investigated for violating state regulations on land management.

They too are accused of having links to Vu, who allegedly bought close to 40 state-owned properties at a steep discount, state media reported.

The government announced this month a major restructuring of the shadowy MPS, vowing to slash staff numbers and departments to cut costs and boost efficiency.

The ministry is embroiled in a separate scandal involving several former senior officials accused of running a multi-million dollar online gambling ring.

Transparency International ranks Vietnam as one of the most corrupt countries in Southeast Asia.

Previous governments have vowed to tackle graft, but observers say the current campaign -- which echoes a similar drive in China -- is unprecedented in its pace and scope.

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