September 23, 2017 / 3:55 AM / 2 years ago

China's ruling party expels anti-graft, ex-insurance officials citing graft

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China’s ruling Communist Party has expelled the nation’s former top insurance regulator and the head of the finance ministry’s anti-graft committee after an anti-corruption watchdog said investigations found serious violations of party discipline.

Xiang Junbo attends a news conference on the sidelines of the National People's Congress (NPC) in China's parliament, in Beijing, China March 12, 2016. Picture taken March 12, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee

In a statement on its website on Saturday, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) said an investigation had determined that Xiang Junbo, former chairman of the China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC), had “committed serious violations of political discipline and rules” in order to serve personal political interests.

The statement also said Xiang was suspected of bribery and accused him of “engaging in superstitious activities”, an allegation often levelled at discredited officials to further tarnish their names.

President Xi Jinping has presided over a far-reaching anti-corruption drive since coming to power in late 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.

China’s top leaders have also pledged this year to address financial risks and asset bubbles, ahead of a once-every-five-years congress of the Communist Party which will start on Oct. 18.

Xiang will be handed over to legal authorities, the statement added, meaning he will be prosecuted.

Xiang, who also served as a member of the central bank’s monetary policy committee, was removed from his position in April for suspected “serious disciplinary violations”, a phrase that usually refers to graft.

He is the most senior financial regulator to be targeted by the Chinese government’s ongoing fight against graft.

As head of the insurance regulator, Xiang oversaw rapid growth of the insurance industry, along with liberalisation of investment rules that provided insurers greater latitude to invest more of their assets at home and overseas.

Xiang was previously a deputy central bank governor and vice chief at the National Audit Office.

Reuters was not able to reach Xiang or a family or legal representative for comment and it was unclear if he has been allowed to retain a lawyer.

Mo Jiancheng, appointed the top graft buster at China’s Ministry of Finance in December 2015, was also expelled from the party after an investigation found he had “seriously violated the spirit of political discipline”, was suspected of bribery and had accepted numerous invitations to banquets, the CCDI statement said.

Mo was also a member of the ministry’s Party committee and previously served as deputy party secretary and vice governor of Jiangxi province.

Reuters was unable to reach Mo or a family or legal representative for comment and it was unclear if he has been allowed to retain a lawyer.

Reporting by Andrew Galbraith; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

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