Phan Van Anh Vu was convicted as Vietnam´s communist government widens a corruption crackdown that has already seen dozens of former high-flying officials, executives and businessmen put behind bars.

The former property developer turned runaway spy is already serving eight years after he was convicted in July for "divulging state secrets".

That conviction came after he was arrested in Singapore and swiftly sent back to Vietnam to face trial earlier this year.

On Thursday, a court in Ho Chi Minh City found him guilty of abuse of power in a separate trial linked to the partially state-owned Dong A Bank, Vu´s lawyer told AFP.

He was jailed for 17 years while the bank´s former general director Tran Phuong Binh got life.

"Vu insists that he was not guilty and he will appeal," his attorney Nguyen Huu The Trach told AFP.

Binh allegedly instructed Vu to sign a falsified document that said Vu purchased $8.7 million worth of stocks in Dong A Bank, when in fact he pocketed it. Vu paid the money back this year, his lawyer said.

Vu grabbed headlines when he was arrested in Singapore carrying two passports one of which was fake while passing through the city state en route to Europe.

Vu´s conviction shocked many in conservative Vietnam because of his links to the powerful Ministry of Public Security (MPS), long believed to be untouchable.

But several other MPS-linked officials have been targeted as a hardline administration makes good on a promise to clean up the graft-prone country.

The anti-corruption campaign initially zeroed in on the state-run oil industry, but has since expanded to security, banking and land sectors.

Earlier this week, the former CEO head of the state-run PetroVietnam Exploration Production Corp was arrested for allegedly "abusing power to appropriate property", according to MPS.

Observers say the anti-graft crackdown which echoes Beijing´s anti-corruption drive is aimed at cleaning up the notoriously crooked country, but may also be aimed at eliminating political foes.

Transparency International ranks Vietnam 107 out of 180 countries on its corruption index, behind Thailand, Indonesia and China.

Agence France Presse - December 20, 2018