Jiang Jiemin, then PetroChina Chairman attends a press conference in Hong Kong in March 2010. Photo: SCMP

UpdateFormer oil company chief and protégé of ex-security tsar Zhou Yongkang is latest graft probe target

Jiang Jiemin, now head of agency overseeing state-owned enterprises, was a protégé at oil giant of former security tsar Zhou Yongkang

Raymond Li

The head of a cabinet agency overseeing the 100 largest state-owned enterprises is being investigated for corruption in what appears to be a widening probe into the state oil industry - a key powerbase of former senior party leader Zhou Yongkang.

Jiang Jiemin, director of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (Sasac) and former chairman of the country's biggest oil company, is suspected of "serious discipline violations", Xinhua reported yesterday, using the party's euphemism for graft.

The inquiry is the first against a ministerial-level official and a full member of the party's 205-strong Central Committee since a leadership reshuffle that began last November.

Jiang was appointed to the cabinet-level post in March and was previously chairman of China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC). The probe comes days after similar probes against four current CNPC executives were announced.

Zhou was a long-time executive of the oil company before becoming the country's security tsar and a member of the Politburo Standing Committee.

Jiang, 58, is a prominent protégé of Zhou's and the investigation could provide further evidence against Zhou, who retired last November.

The first reported on Friday that party leaders under President Xi Jinping had approved an unprecedented corruption probe into Zhou. The investigation will focus on Zhou's time as CNPC general manager and then as Sichuan party chief, a period stretching from 1988 to 2002.

Jiang enjoyed a meteoric rise at CNPC during Zhou's decade at the company, working at several subsidiaries before becoming a vice-president of the company's listed arm in 1999.

He left to serve as vice-governor of Qinghai, but returned as deputy manager of the oil giant in 2004. He was promoted to general manager in 2006 and became chairman in 2011.

The Central Committee for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) investigation into Jiang comes just days after the authorities announced similar probes into four senior CNPC officials, including deputy general manager Wang Yongchun, a former Jiang aide at CNPC.

Wang oversaw the company's human resources department and rose through the ranks while Jiang was at the helm.

The investigations have been seen by some analysts as a move by Xi and Premier Li Keqiang to weaken state monopolies in strategic industries.

Li, who heads the State Council, has reportedly sought greater competition in the industries, but has met resistance from powerful state-owned enterprises.

A CNPC official, who declined to be named, said the investigations had thrown the company into chaos that was expected to last for months.

"Because the big guys have been targeted in the investigations, a lot of middle-level officials could also be implicated subsequently," the official said.

A source close to the CCDI told the the probe would focus mainly on Jiang's tenure as deputy director of the Shengli Oilfield in Shandong province in the 1990s. Yesterday, the top story on the Sasac website was about Jiang's visit to the Aviation Industry Corporation of China on Tuesday, his most recent public appearance.

Jiang was elevated to the Sasac post despite questions about CNPC's role in efforts to help cover-up a Ferrari crash in Beijing last year that killed the only son of Ling Jihua, who was chief of staff to then-president Hu Jintao . The reported in November that Jiang was questioned about tens of millions of yuan transferred from CNPC to the families of two women injured in the crash.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Ex-CNPC chief is new graft probe target