Vietnam arrests two more officials of state-run MobiFone in graft crackdown

HANOI (Reuters) - Police in Vietnam have arrested two more officials of a state-run mobile carrier, the latest sweep in the Communist-ruled nation’s graft crackdown that has already engulfed hundreds of government officials.

The arrests follow last month’s election of new President Nguyen Phu Trong, Vietnam’s party chief and architect of the crackdown, which saw a member of the powerful decision-making politburo among those arrested and jailed.

Pham Thi Phuong Anh, deputy director of MobiFone Corp. and former general director Cao Duy Hai were accused of “violating regulations on the management and use of state capital,” the Ministry of Public Security said on Wednesday.

Police have accused the company of causing losses to the state budget by overpaying for a stake of 95 percent in a loss-making pay-TV provider, the ministry said in a statement.

MobiFone, one of Vietnam’s three largest mobile carriers by subscribers, bought the controversial stake in Audio Visual Global JSC (AVG) in 2015 for nearly 8.9 trillion dong ($386 million).

In July, police arrested a former chairman of MobiFone and a senior official of the Ministry of Information and Communications accused of involvement in the case.

Vietnam’s information minister was suspended that month and replaced in October over alleged ties to wrongdoing at the company.

In an unrelated investigation, police arrested a former deputy labor minister last week over accusations of economic mismanagement.

Vietnam has opened 427 corruption cases this year to investigate 889 officials, its chief government inspector, Le Minh Khai, said in a statement late on Tuesday.

Police have this year completed investigations into 212 other graft cases that involved misappropriation of more than $200 million and 300,000 square meters (3.23 million sq ft) of land, Khai added.

“Preventing, and fighting against, corruption will continue to be a key task in 2019,” the statement said.

Reporting by Khanh Vu; Editing by James Pearson and Clarence Fernandez