The most senior judiciary official to be investigated for corruption since the start of the anti-graft campaign has close ties with a tycoon in the resource-rich Shanxi province, mainland media reported. Xi Xiaoming, 61, a vice-president of the Supreme People’s Court, is being investigated by the nation’s anti-graft watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, on suspicion of “serious disciplinary violations and offences”. Mainland news portal Caixin reported yesterday that Xi, who has expertise in civil and commercial jurisdictions, and is leading a new group on China’s civil code, is connected to a tycoon in Shanxi, which has been hit by a series of corruption scandals. It said that Xi had interfered in court proceedings on behalf of the province's former richest tycoon. “Xi Xiaoming well understood the civil and commercial laws and would take different techniques to flip cases to help others gain illicit benefits,” Caixin quoted a source as saying. One of the most controversial cases, according to Caixin, involved coal mine owner Zhang Xinming. In March 2004, Zhang had spent 18 million yuan (HK$23 million) to acquire a 60 per cent stake of the 53-sq-km Daning Jinhai coal mine, which was estimated to have more than 400 million tonnes of 8reserves. However, because Zhang couldn’t afford to pay 224 million yuan for the mining rights till 2007 he started to borrow cash from, and sell equities to, two other companies. After a series of loans and equity transfers, by the end of 2007, Shanxi Qinhe Energy had replaced Zhang as the owner of the mine with 62 per cent of the equities. By this time, the value of the mine had rocketed to over ten billion yuan and Zhang wanted the equities back, but Qinhe refused. In March 2010, Zhang sued the company, asking the court to void the earlier contracts, saying the acquisition cost paid by Qinhe was too low. The court ruled in Zhang’s favour. Qinhe then appealed to the Supreme People’s Court, which also ruled in Zhang’s favour. Caixin cited an anonymous source saying that although Xi wasn’t the judge of the case, he arranged to have his law school classmate act as Zhang’s lawyer and helped in other ways, too. The South China Morning Post reported last August that Zhang had been detained over a controversial coal deal with China Resources Power. Caixin said Xi was taken away by investigators before July 11.