UPDATE 1-China investigates Agriculture Bank vice president

Wed May 30, 2012 11:57am EDT

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(Adds statement from bank)

HONG KONG May 30 (Reuters) - A vice president at Agricultural Bank of China Ltd , China's third largest bank by market value, is under investigation by the Communist Party's discipline authorities, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said.

Yang Kun has not been in his office in over a week, the source told Reuters on Wednesday, and has been taken away by the party's disciplinary body, which typically probes allegations of corruption and other crimes before handing suspects over to judicial authorities.

Agbank's Hong Kong-listed stock closed down 4 percent on Wednesday, while the main index fell 1.9 percent.

The state-owned bank, which has a stock market value of $137 billion and reported January-March net profit of 43.45 billion yuan ($6.8 billion), said Yang was "currently assisting relevant mainland authorities in connection with certain investigations".

"The board is of the view that, as at the date of this announcement, the bank's business, operations and financial status have not been affected," it said in a short statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange.

"The bank will follow the development of this incident and will make further announcement as and when appropriate."

The website of Chinese magazine Caixin, a respected financial publication, reported separately on Wednesday that Yang had been taken away to assist in an investigation and banned from leaving the country.

The article, citing sources with knowledge of the matter, added that a close relative of his had also been taken in recently for questioning.

Caixin said Yang was suspected of involvement in a gambling case involving a Beijing real estate company.

Nobody answered the telephone at the spokesman's office for the party's discipline body, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

Yang joined the bank in 1981, a biography on the bank's website shows. His 2011 remuneration was 915,600 yuan, a bank submission showed in March.

The biography says he was responsible for several of the bank's operations, including corporate and consumer banking, the international department and real estate lending.

Historically, Agbank was a policy bank supporting China's farmers under Chairman Mao Zedong. It was the weakest of the big four banks and so was the last to go public.

It held an initial public offering in 2010, selling a record-breaking amount of shares in Hong Kong and Shanghai, raising more than $20 billion. ($1=6.36 yuan) (Reporting by Hong Kong newsroom; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Don Durfee and Anthony Barker)

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