24 October 2016
In-laws of Liu Yunshan (left) and Zhang Gaoli have been linked to companies set up in the British Virgin Islands by Mossack Fonseca. Photos: Xinhua, Bloomberg
In-laws of Liu Yunshan (left) and Zhang Gaoli have been linked to companies set up in the British Virgin Islands by Mossack Fonseca. Photos: Xinhua, Bloomberg

More Chinese linked to Panama Papers

A new report adds several more names to the list of senior Chinese political figures with relatives identified as clients of a Panamanian law firm who have set up or invested in companies incorporated in offshore tax havens.

A report Wednesday by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, citing leaked documents, linked relatives of two members of the Communist Party leadership — Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli and Liu Yunshan, who oversees propaganda and ideology — to offshore commercial activities conducted through law firm Mossack Fonseca & Co.

The report didn’t accuse any individual or organization of wrongdoing, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The ICIJ reported the names of members of elite party families identified as directors or shareholders of offshore companies.

Among them are relatives of Mao Zedong, former party chief Hu Yaobang — both deceased — and former Vice President Zeng Qinghong.

The disclosures provide details of the lifestyles that many Chinese assume families of upper-echelon party members lead. Analysts said they are likely to fuel public cynicism about official corruption.

While an anticorruption campaign launched by Xi Jinping, the president and party chief, is widely popular, many Chinese also see it as a tool for settling political scores.

A brother-in-law of Xi is also named in the leaked documents as a shareholder of offshore firms, as reported earlier this week by the ICIJ.

Since foreign media reports citing the documents, known as the Panama Papers, emerged this week, Chinese censors have worked to scrub domestic news sites and social media of mentions of any China connection.

News outlets that reviewed the trove of leaked documents from Mossack Fonseca haven’t reported any alleged wrongdoing by any of the China-linked individuals or companies they identified.

China doesn’t prohibit its citizens from setting up or investing in offshore firms, which can serve legitimate purposes but have also been used to evade taxes and funnel illicit funds abroad.

The Communist Party bars its members from registering or investing in offshore companies.

Though party rules don’t specify similar restrictions for members’ relatives, the leadership has urged senior cadres for the better part of this decade to rein in excessive behavior by family members that has fed public resentment.

Among those named in Wednesday’s ICIJ report is the grandson-in-law of Mao, Chen Dongsheng, a businessman who is chief executive of Taikang Life Insurance Co. and the founder of auction house China Guardian Auctions Co.

Chen incorporated a company in the British Virgin Islands in 2011 and served as its sole director and shareholder, the ICIJ said. 

The ICIJ’s latest report also gave new details about relatives of two members of the seven-man Politburo Standing Committee, the party’s top decision-making body: Zhang and Liu.

The report said Liu has a daughter-in-law, Jia Liqing, who was identified as the director and shareholder of a company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands in 2009.

The ICIJ also named Lee Shing Put, who is married to Vice Premier Zhang’s daughter Zhang Xiaoyan, as a shareholder in three firms incorporated in the British Virgin Islands. 

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