Anti-graft agency probes China insurance tycoon Wang Bin

The chairman of China’s biggest insurer is under investigation by the Communist Party’s anti-corruption commission, the agency said Saturday, as the government pushes a campaign against graft and a clean-up of the country’s chaotic financial industry.

Wang Bin is being investigated for suspected “serious violations of discipline and law”, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said in a brief statement, wording that typically indicates impending graft charges.

Wang chairs China Life Insurance, which is listed in Shanghai, Hong Kong and New York.

The announcement gave no further details.

Bloomberg financial news agency reported recently that China Life and other major insurers were struggling with a decelerating Chinese economy and shrinking levels of new business, among other woes.

Their shares have also been hit by fears of their exposure to China’s crisis-hit property sector.

In October, China Life posted a 54 percent drop in third-quarter profit.

Chinese regulators have struggled for years to clean up massive debt and mismanagement in its corporate sector, a battle that has focused lately on property giant Evergrande Group.

Evergrande has been plunged into crisis over the past year after regulators curbed property speculation and leverage, cutting off crucial avenues for accessing cash.

It has recently defaulted on debt, causing fears of wider financial contagion, and a major restructuring under the government’s watchful eye is expected.

More than a million officials have been punished in recent years in a wide-ranging anti-corruption campaign launched under President Xi Jinping.

Last year China executed Lai Xiaomin, the former chairman of Huarong — one of China’s largest state-controlled asset management firms — who was accused of taking $260 million worth of bribes.

In September Yuan Renguo, the former head of Keichow Moutai, the world’s most valuable spirits company, was jailed for life for taking more than $17 million in bribes.

In 2020, the former head of China’s insurance regulator was sentenced to 11 years in prison, also on charges of taking bribes.

Agence France-Presse