Vietnam police arrest deputy trade minister in bribery probe

HANOI (Reuters) -Police in Vietnam have detained a deputy minister of Industry and Trade on an accusation of bribery, its security ministry said on Thursday, the latest arrest in the ruling Communist Party’s years-long campaign against graft.

Do Thang Hai, 60, was held as part of an investigation into alleged wrongdoing at an oil trading firm in southern Vietnam, the police-run Ministry of Public Security said in a statement.

Hai is the latest among hundreds of Vietnamese officials investigated for corruption, many forced to quit, including former president and premier Nguyen Xuan Phuc and two deputy prime ministers.

Hai’s home and his office were searched on Thursday, the state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper reported, citing police. The trade ministry did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Hai, a deputy minister since 2014, has been in charge of areas such as the domestic market, trade promotion, manufacturing, international cooperation and has also been a ministry spokesperson.

The anti-graft campaign, dubbed “blazing furnace”, has reached deep into Vietnam’s corporate sector too, with tycoons, top stockbrokers, property developers and even regulators ensnared, last year triggering a $40 billion wipeout for stocks and rattling investor confidence.

Police have in recent weeks detained four others for their involvement in the case at Xuyen Viet Oil Travel and Transport Trading Co. Those include the Communist Party’s top official in Ben Tre province and the head of the Finance Department of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s business hub, according to the police statement.

Calls by Reuters to Xuyen Viet, headquartered in Ho Chi Minh City, went unanswered.

The city’s police department on Thursday in a separate statement said Xuyen Viet had an outstanding tax debt of 1.53 trillion dong ($62.91 million) as of August 2023.

($1 = 24,320 dong)

(Reporting by Khanh Vu and Phuong Nguyen; Editing by Martin Petty and Toby Chopra)