Xi Jinping's anti-graft campaign

Former boss of Shanghai-based food giant arrested by anti-graft inspectors

Wang Zongnan, once an aide to fallen Shanghai party boss, first scalp in anti-graft push in city

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 August, 2014, 12:07pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 September, 2014, 6:51pm

The former head of one of the mainland's largest food conglomerates has been arrested for alleged corruption.

Wang Zongnan's head is the first to roll in the financial hub since the Communist Party sent anti-graft inspectors there late last month.

Once an aide to Chen Liangyu before his fall from grace as Shanghai party boss, Wang, 59, has been charged with embezzling public funds and accepting bribes while working at Shanghai Friendship Group and Lianhua Supermarket Holdings, according to a brief notice posted late on Monday night on the website of the Shanghai municipal procuratorate.

He is a former chairman of Bright Food Group, the mainland's second-largest food company. Bright Food Group is also the parent firm of what was the Shanghai Yimin Food Number One Plant, where former president Jiang Zemin worked early in his career.

The arrest came two weeks after local prosecutors announced a formal investigation into Wang's activities.

He is believed to have ties throughout the business community and with Communist Party officials in Shanghai, having played a major role in reforming state-owned enterprises there since the mid-1990s.

Before resigning as chairman of Bright Food in November citing health problems, Wang was a top executive in several state-owned companies in Shanghai. He is the former general manager of the Shanghai Friendship Group and former president of Lianhua, the mainland's biggest supermarket chain.

He was an assistant to Chen from 1987 to 1992, when Chen was the head of the municipality's Huangpu district, the Beijing Times reported.

Chen was sacked in 2006 and jailed for 18 years in 2008 for taking 2.4 million yuan (HK$3 million) in bribes and for abuse of power in one of China's most high-profile corruption scandals.

Beijing decided to send an anti-graft inspection team to Shanghai in late July, two days after the announcement of a formal investigation into Wang.

The Shanghai inspection will continue until the end of next month and is a part of the fourth round of nationwide sweeps launched by the party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection since May last year.

Analysts said it was hard to know if there would be a major crackdown on Shanghai officials.

Renmin University political science professor Zhang Ming said: "What we are now sure about is that [former security tsar] Zhou Yongkang is not the end game of [President] Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign, and it's hard to predict what will happen once the anti-graft campaign escalates."