Report links China elite to tax havens

Critics believe corrupt officials use offshore entities to hide money

AP

Relatives of China’s president and other business and political leaders are linked to companies in offshore tax havens that “helped shroud the Communist elite’s wealth,” a U.S.-based journalism group said Wednesday.

The report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists might fuel politically awkward attention on President Xi Jinping’s rich family at a time when Xi has made fighting corruption a theme of his leadership.

Complaints that relatives of China’s leaders abuse their positions to profit from real estate and other deals are widespread. But details on their activities, especially those at the highest party levels, are often hidden.

The ICIJ, based in Washington, said it obtained documents showing the identities of nearly 22,000 owners of companies and trusts in the British Virgin Islands, Samoa and other offshore centers. It said they include Xi’s brother-in-law, former Premier Wen Jiabao’s son and son-in-law and relatives of other party figures.

“Close relatives of China’s top leaders have held secretive offshore companies in tax havens that helped shroud the Communist elite’s wealth,” the group said.

Chinese authorities moved quickly to block the public from seeing Wednesday’s report.

Such offshore entities are legal and often are used by Chinese companies to control foreign subsidiaries, but activists and investigators believe corrupt officials also might use them to hide improperly obtained money.

The report gave no financial details and stressed the ICIJ was not suggesting anyone named has “broken the law or otherwise acted improperly.” The group said it would release a full list of names Thursday.

Communist leaders are intensely sensitive to suggestions they have profited from China’s economic boom. The ruling party insists public scrutiny of their financial affairs is not permitted.

Complaints about the lavish lifestyles of officials, Communist Party figures and military officers who drive luxury cars, own villas and send their children to elite foreign universities have fueled political tensions. Police have detained activists who called for party leaders to disclose their family wealth.

Xi’s brother-in-law, Deng Jiagui, a wealthy developer, owns 50 percent of a British Virgin Islands company, Excellence Effort Property Development, according to ICIJ. It said the remainder is owned by two Chinese developers. The list also includes relatives of former President Hu Jintao and Deng Xiaoping.