October 15, 2018 / 4:21 AM / a month ago

China's ruling party expels Huarong ex-chairman over suspected graft

BEIJING (Reuters) - The former chairman of China Huarong Asset Management Co Ltd (2799.HK), Lai Xiaomin, has been expelled from the Communist Party and will be prosecuted for suspected corruption, China’s top anti-graft agency said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: China Huarong Asset Management Co Chairman Lai Xiaomin listens to a question from a reporter during the debut of the company at the Hong Kong Exchanges in Hong Kong, China October 30, 2015. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Lai, one of the most senior executives to be brought to book in China’s anti-corruption campaign, was accused of a long list of wrongdoings, from cronyism and taking bribes, to the embezzlement of public property, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) said in a statement on its website.

Lai, in violation of political disciplines and the central government’s financial policy, was accused of “blindly and disorderly” expanding Huarong away from its core business, causing adverse impact, the commission said.

It was not possible to reach Lai or a representative for comment.

Lai engaged in political opportunism and careerism, exchanged power for sex with several women, and flouted frugality rules by frequently accepting entertainment from private business owners in private clubs and high-end restaurants, it said.

Lai had also arranged company-paid travel for relatives and allowed them to use his influence to seek profit, the CCDI said.

President Xi Jinping has presided over a far-reaching anti-corruption drive since coming to power in 2012, punishing more than a million party members, jailing top military figures and retired security tsar Zhou Yongkang, the most senior official toppled for corruption since 1949.

As a senior official of the Communist Party, Lai had lost his belief in communism and had practiced “superstitious activities”, the CCDI said.

He had been expelled from the party, it said. His illegal gains would be confiscated and the case would be transferred to judicial bodies for investigation, it added.

Lai was removed in April from his post as party chief and chairman of Huarong - one of China’s big four state-owned bad loan managers, and replaced by Wang Zhanfeng, a senior official at the banking regulator.

The next likely step against Lai will be to put him on trial.

Huarong’s Hong Kong-listed shares (2799.HK), which have a market value of HK$56.65 billion ($7.23 billion) dropped 3.45 percent around midday on Monday. The shares have lost 62.47 percent in value since the beginning of the year.

Reporting by Shu Zhang and Beijing Monitoring Desk; Editing by Stephen Coates, Robert Birsel

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