UPDATE 1-China investigating Huarong chairman for suspected graft

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SINGAPORE/SHANGHAI, April 17 (Reuters) - China is investigating the chairman of Huarong Asset Management Co Ltd , the country’s biggest manager of distressed assets, for suspected graft, the ruling Communist Party’s anti-corruption watchdog said on Tuesday.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said it was investigating Lai Xiaomin for suspected “serious discipline violations”, a euphemism for graft, making him the latest in a string of high-profile financial executives targeted.

China is looking to rein in risks in the financial sector, targeting riskier lending practices and high corporate debt. The country’s new Vice Premier Liu He, known for his tough stance on credit-driven stimulus, has made a crackdown on risk in the country’s financial sector a top priority.

Xiang Junbo, former chairman of the insurance watchdog, last April became the highest-ranking finance industry official to be investigated for corruption.

The high-flying former chairman of China’s Anbang Insurance Group Co Ltd last month went on trial in Shanghai over alleged economic crimes, including fraud and embezzlement involving more than $10 billion.

The CCDI gave no further details. Huarong Asset Management was not immediately available for comment. Reuters could not immediately reach Lai for comment.

Huarong is among China’s top state-owned bad debt managers, created in 1999 to take over distressed assets from the country’s’ “Big Four” state-owned lenders.

The firm posted 2017 net profit of 22 billion yuan ($3.50 billion) last month, up from 19.6 billion yuan a year earlier.

$1 = 6.2848 Chinese yuan renminbi Reporting by Lee Chyen Yee in SINGAPORE and Adam Jourdan in SHANGHAI; Additional reporting by Meg Shen in HONG KONG and Zhang Shu in BEIJING; Editing by Louise Heavens