PetroChina's Indonesian chief Wei Zhigang focus of corruption probe

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 October, 2013, 4:39am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 October, 2013, 8:51am

Beijing is investigating the former head of PetroChina's Indonesian operations, just weeks after authorities announced a corruption investigation into other former executives at the state oil giant.

PetroChina removed Wei Zhigang from his post as general manager of its Indonesian unit several weeks ago amid an unspecified official probe into the executive, three Chinese oil industry sources said.

Company spokesman Mao Zefeng said he was not aware of any investigation into Wei, who could not be reached for comment.

PetroChina and its parent, China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), are at the centre of one of the biggest corruption investigations into the Chinese state sector in years. Until now, no executives from PetroChina's foreign operations have been implicated.

The state oil industry was a power base of former senior party leader Zhou Yongkang . The South China Morning Post reported in August that Party leaders had agreed to launch a corruption probe into Zhou, a former security tsar who retired from the Politburo Standing Committee a year ago.

One source said: "Wei has been removed and his replacement has gone to Indonesia".

The new country general manager is Xue Liangqing, formerly a chief geologist at PetroChina's international exploration and production unit.

Asked to comment, Indonesia's energy regulator SKKMigas said Wei had to leave because his visa had been extended too many times for someone in that role in the country's oil sector.

Spokesman Elan Biantoro said the regulator was aware that PetroChina had appointed Xue its new manager for Indonesia.

SKKMigas has been rocked by its own corruption scandal, with a probe into its former chief.

Beijing stunned the Chinese energy industry in late August and early September with announcements that five former top executives at PetroChina and CNPC were being investigated for "serious discipline violations", a term generally used to describe graft.

The executives included Jiang Jiemin , former chairman of both entities, and Wang Yongchun , who was vice-president of CNPC in charge of China's largest oilfield, at Daqing in the country's northeast.

Authorities gave no further details on the alleged wrongdoing of the five, but the investigations suggest President Xi Jinping wants to tackle graft in an industry that ranks as one of the most powerful corners of the state-owned corporate sector.