Vietnam sacks top communist official

Danang party chief Nguyen Xuan Anh, 41, was sacked for violating party rules, tarnishing the party's reputation and sparking anger among his colleagues and the public. PHOTO: REUTERS

HANOI (AFP) - The communist party chief of one of Vietnam's largest cities was fired on Friday (Oct 6) for violating party rules, the government said, part of the country's massive anti-corruption sweep targeting political heavyweights and executives.

Dozens of bankers, businessmen and current and former officials have been toppled in recent months as the notoriously corrupt one-party state vows to punish wrongdoing and polish its public image.

Analysts say the campaign is about political infighting as much as tackling corruption.

Danang party chief Nguyen Xuan Anh, 41, was sacked for violating party rules, tarnishing the party's reputation and sparking anger among his colleagues and the public, according to the party's supervision commission.

"Nguyen Xuan Anh's violations and mistakes are serious," the commission said on its website on Friday.

He is accused of setting a poor example for receiving a car from a company and for holding a doctorate degree from a US university not recognised by Vietnam's Ministry of Education and Training.

The party committee also raised questions about his use of two different homes owned by companies.

Xuan Anh has been Danang party chief since 2015, presiding over the fast-developing coastal city that will host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' summit in November.

US President Donald Trump is expected to attend the meeting in his first Asia jaunt since he was elected, along with the leaders of Russia, China and Japan, among others.

Xuan Anh's takedown follows a series of high-profile anti-corruption cases.

In May, serving member of the politburo Dinh La Thang was fired over his previous stewardship of the massive state energy firm PetroVietnam (PVN).

Thang was party chief of the southern financial hub Ho Chi Minh City when he was abruptly dismissed for mismanagement at PVN.

Officials had also sought his former colleague, Trinh Xuan Thanh, the former head of PVN's construction unit accused of losses worth $150 million, who fled Vietnam last year.

He was kidnapped from a Berlin park in August by Vietnamese security agents, according to German officials who decried the Cold-War style abduction as a "scandalous violation" of international law.

Thanh later appeared on state television in Hanoi where officials said he had voluntarily handed himself in.

Last week, 51 bankers and businessmen were convicted in a massive fraud case, including ex-banker Nguyen Xuan Son - who later chaired PVN - who was sentenced to death for causing losses worth millions of dollars.

Analysts have said that while previous administrations have waged anti-corruption drives, the current campaign is unique in its scope and speed.

Vietnam's ranking on Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index improved in 2016 for the first time since 2012, to 113 out of 176.

But it remains behind Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, and TI said earlier this year Vietnam "has yet to show for a real breakthrough".

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