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China arrests former head of religious affairs body on graft suspicions

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has arrested the former head of its religious affairs regulator on suspicion of taking bribes, the official news agency Xinhua said on Monday, becoming the latest official felled in President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption drive.

The decision to arrest Cui Maohu, the former official, was made a few days ago, the agency said, without giving further details.

His downfall comes as Xi's signature anti-graft campaign has widened its focus to target the healthcare industry in recent weeks.

Cui could not immediately be reached to seek comment.

Last week, the defence ministry also vowed to "crack down on every corrupt official", after a major reshuffle in July of top commanders in the Rocket Force of the People's Liberation Army.

Cui, who also served as deputy head of the United Front Work Department, was expelled last week from the ruling Communist Party and removed from public office over "serious" violations including suspected bribery, the anti-graft watchdog said.

He was also found to have "illegally occupied arable land to engage in vanity projects," the watchdog and a supervisory body said in a joint statement on Wednesday.

He was also faulted over banquets and tourism "that could affect official duties", received gifts and property, and used his position to get sex and money, added the watchdog, formally called the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

Cui was fired from his post of director of the State Administration of Religious Affairs, and put under investigation in March, days after China's new cabinet started its new term.

(Reporting by Laurie Chen and Beijing Newsroom; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Clarence Fernandez)