Head of large Chinese developer probed for criminal behaviour

BEIJING Fri Nov 15, 2013 6:23am EST

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BEIJING Nov 15 (Reuters) - The chairman of a large Chinese state-owned development company in southwestern Chengdu is being investigated for unspecified crimes, the company said on Friday, in what could be part of a broader crackdown on corruption in the city.

Ping Xing, chairman of Chengdu Hi-Tech Development Co Ltd , has been under investigation since August for violations of party discipline, which in China is generally code for corruption.

"Recently, the Chengdu commission on discipline inspection has filed a case to investigate Chengdu Hi-Tech Group's chairman and president, Ping Xing," the company said in a short statement to the Shenzhen stock exchange.

"Through investigation, Ping Xing's behaviour is considered a severe violation of party discipline, and he is suspected of crimes. These criminal issues have been passed on to the relevant legal authorities to handle."

The company has been responsible for developing two neighbourhoods in Chengdu, a city of 14 million people, and has invested roughly 33 billion yuan ($5.42 billion), according to its holding company's website.

Since Sichuan provincial deputy party secretary Li Chuncheng was toppled last December for "serious discipline violations", a series of officials and business people have fallen under suspicion, including former provincial deputy governor, Guo Yongxiang, and He Yan, a local businesswoman, both of whom are likewise being investigated for violations of party discipline.

President Xi Jinping has called the country's pervasive corruption a threat to the ruling Communist Party's very survival and has vowed to pursue powerful "tigers" as well as lowly "flies".

Many officials have been caught up in the investigations, which have now also extended to large state-owned companies.

As part of that campaign, China launched a series of graft investigations into the energy sector, announcing in August and September that five former senior officials of the country's biggest oil business, China National Petroleum Corp, were under investigation for "serious discipline violations".

A top executive at the country's largest bulk shipping company, China COSCO Holdings , is also the subject of a government probe.

Last Friday, COSCO announced its vice president, Xu Minjie, had resigned - a day after it said he was "under investigation by the relevant authorities".

A former COSCO Group chairman, Wei Jiafu, has also been prevented from leaving China, the Beijing Times said in a report citing unidentified company sources that was reposted by the official Xinhua news agency.

The reports of Wei having been banned from leaving China were baseless, COSCO Group said in a statement last week, vowing to comply with the country's anti-graft procedures. It declined further comment on the matter.

On Friday, China Merchants Bank said Wei, who is now the bank's vice chairman, had resigned. ($1 = 6.1 yuan) (Reporting By Adam Rose; Additional Reporting By Li Hui, Meg Shen, Lee Chyen Yee and Chen Aizhu; Editing by Ben Blanchard)

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