Tianjin energy boss detained as graft probe widens

Jin Jianping, head of the city's Hong Kong-listed Jinran Public Utilities, is taken away amid inquiry into China National Petroleum Corp

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 September, 2013, 9:36pm

A top energy executive from Tianjin is being investigated amid the widening corruption probe into the country's petrochemical sector.

Jin Jianping, who stepped down from the helm of Hong Kong-listed Tianjin Jinran Public Utilities at the start of this month, was placed under internal investigation by the Communist Party for "serious disciplinary violation" - often a euphemism for graft - Xinhua said in a brief report yesterday, citing the city's anti-graft watchdog.

Tianjin Jinran is the sole supplier of natural gas in the northern city, with 2.7 million customers and 11,420 kilometres of gas pipeline, according to its website. Its shares fell 0.02 per cent in Hong Kong yesterday, to close at HK$1.81, giving it a market capitalisation of HK$3.33 billion. Jin was still listed as the chairman of the parent company, Tianjin Gas Group, on its website yesterday.

Jin, 54, is the latest senior executive to come under scrutiny as the party expands its corruption inquiry into the country's powerful oil and gas businesses, one of the powerbases of former top party leader Zhou Yongkang. Zhou retired in November from the all-powerful Politburo's Standing Committee. The South China Morning Post reported last month that the new leadership under President Xi Jinping had agreed to an unprecedented corruption investigation targeting Zhou, who spent the early decades of his career in the oil sector.

The activities of a number of Zhou's protégés are also being scrutinised. Jin, who led the company since 2002, has overseen numerous gas utility infrastructure projects in Tianjin amid a major push for clean energy in recent years.

The 21st Century Business Herald newspaper reported yesterday that he was taken away while out for breakfast near his home in Xianghe county in Hebei province on September 5 and that investigators had also uncovered cash at his home. Quoting an unidentified source from a Tianjin municipal party committee department overseeing personnel affairs, the paper said Jin had been accused of financial irregularities linked to the probe into the China National Petroleum Corporation.

A source close to the company said on Tuesday all members of middle and top management had been ordered to surrender their passports. Jin was tipped off about the inquiry but was unable to flee abroad to join his family and his mobile had been switched off since last week, the report said. In an announcement on Monday, Tianjin Jinran said Jin relinquished his post as chairman and executive director on September 1.

In Sichuan province, another of Zhou's powerbases, a former chairman of the Chengdu Bank, Mao Zhigang , had been placed under shuanggui, a system of detention and interrogation for party members outside the regular legal system, said and Hexun .com two business news portals.

The Chengdu government, which controls the bank, said it had no information about the matter, but Mao's detention is believed to be linked to financial irregularities in lending to large housing developers.

Mao, who had served as the party secretary and chairman at the bank since 2004, was removed from the posts, according to a government statement on July 31, but it was not clear if this was merely because he had reached retirement age.


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