Beijing anti-graft team on trail of casino losses

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 June, 2012, 12:00am


Beijing has major Macau casinos in its sights as it seeks hard evidence of bribery and money laundering amid a snowballing investigation into a senior banker and a secretive businessman on the mainland.

A special team from the Communist Party's high-level anti-corruption watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, is trying to uncover a complex network run by low-profile but well-connected businessman Wang Yaohui, according to sources familiar with the matter.

They also said Wang's business empire was having problems, without giving details.

Wang, chairman of the closely held property-to-resources conglomerate Zhonghui Guohua Industry Group, was detained in Beijing in late May. At about the same time, Yang Kun, an executive vice-president of Agricultural Bank of China (ABC) mainly in charge of loans, was also detained. ABC, one of the big four state-run banks, last week confirmed Yang's detention in a statement but gave no further details.

People familiar with the matter said yesterday that one of Beijing's aims was to examine Yang and Wang's gambling activities in Macau. 'There are already some clues as to how much money they lost in Macau, but, of course, the government needs evidence so that it can put a specific number on this,' one of the sources said.

The source added that clues pointed to bank loans offered by ABC with Yang's help to Wang's company and suggested that part of the loans, which were intended for mainland property construction, may have been misused to cover gambling losses in Macau.

The sources said the two men lost several hundred million yuan during their gambling trips to Macau. They did not name any of the casinos that may have entertained Yang and Wang.

One of the sources said Beijing received a tip-off from an informant to the Ministry of State Security, Beijing's main foreign intelligence agency, about the men's gambling activities in Macau and a dispute between Wang and a casino over the losses.

In 2009, Li Peiying, the former chairman of Beijing's Capital Airports Holding Company, was executed for losing tens of millions of yuan during more than a dozen gambling trips to Macau.

Additional reporting by Sophie Yu