Sinopec official denies accepting escort service in bribery case

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 January, 2013, 12:09pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 January, 2013, 5:19pm

State-owned oil giant Sinopec has launched an investigation into allegations that one of its officials accepted escort services as a bribe by a supplier, which won a lucrative contract for a project worth 18 billion yuan (HK$22 billion) in Wuhan.

The official at China Petroleum & Chemical, identified only by her last name as Zhang, called the accusations  false and added that she had filed a complaint with the police, reported China News Service on Thursday.

The allegations first surfaced on one of China’s popular online forums this week, but its origins are unclear. The story was quickly picked up by major newspapers. Sinopec announced on Wednesday they had launched an official investigation.

The scandal involves US-listed technology company Agilent Technologies, which had been accused of bribing Zhang with sex service provided by male sex workers in a high-end Beijing club, said media reports. Some of the escorts were reported to be African.

Agilent had secretly videotaped Zhang, reports said. It later threatened her with the tape when the company competed for a big contract to sell machines to Sinopec for an 18-billion-yuan plant to produce petrochemical ethylene in Hubei province's Wuhan. 

Zhang then worked with Agilent and helped it to win, said reports.

Possibly to avoid unwanted attention, Agilent had lowered its initial offering price from US$2.6 million to US$2.3 million. This turned out to be the lowest price among all bidders. 

besides the machines, the contract required Agilent to supply a software that costs US$800,000. But after securing the contract, they replaced it with a low-quality software costing only US$100,000, according to reports. This way Agilent was able to make money despite the relatively low price Sinopec paid them.

Zhang told reporters on Thursday that the tender had been strictly, lawfully carried out.

Some accounts online depict Zhang as a defiant boss and daughter of a high-ranking Beijing official. She had denied these allegations.

“Internet rumours have severely damaged my body and mind,” she said. “I will definitely pursue legal actions against those vicious slanders.”