HANOI: Vietnam has arrested a senior police official in charge of tackling illegal online betting after he was accused of having links to a gambling ring in the communist nation.
The now-former chief of the “high-technology department” at the powerful Ministry of Public Security (MPS) is the most senior police official to be targeted amid a sweeping crackdown on rampant corruption.
Police Maj. Gen. Nguyen Thanh Hoa, 60, was arrested on Sunday evening in a Hanoi hospital where he was reportedly receiving medical treatment, according to state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper.
He is being investigated for “organizing gambling” in northern Phu Tho province, MPS said in a statement Sunday.
Hoa has also been stripped of his police title by Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang, the former head of MPS, the statement added.
The government website said other police may have participated in the ring, which state media said was part of an international network involving millions of dollars.
Hoa’s department of “high technology” is in charge of tackling illegal activity on the web, including online fraud and illegal betting.
He gained notoriety busting illicit online gambling, including in 2012 when he shut down hundreds of websites and IP addresses linked to illegal football betting.
Gambling is considered a social vice in Vietnam, and most betting is illegal for locals. The government announced last year it would allow some locals to bet in casinos on a trial basis, and also loosened the rules on sports betting.
The investigation comes amid an aggressive anti-corruption campaign that has targeted high-level officials, businessmen and bankers.
Vietnam, one of the most corrupt countries in Southeast Asia, has long vowed to tackle graft, though observers say the current campaign is unprecedented in its scope and scale—and appears motivated by political infighting.
One of the most-high profile cases to-date involved former politburo member Dinh La Thang who was jailed for 13 years in January for causing millions of dollars in losses when he was the head of state-run PetroVietnam, the country’s largest oil firm.
Transparency International has ranked Vietnam 113 out of 176 on its corruption index, worse than its Southeast Asian neighbors Thailand and the Philippines.