Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign
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China corruption crackdown: President of AgBank - one of the mainland's top four lenders - 'relieved of his duties'

President and vice-chairman is relieved of duties as inspection of financial institutions widens

The source said Zhang Yun, who is also the bank's vice-chairman, did not attend a meeting called by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) at the bank yesterday, while local media reports said Zhang had been taken away to assist with an unspecified investigation.

The CCDI, the graft watchdog, began its inspections of China's financial authorities, including the central bank and the securities watchdog, after a series of scandals in the sector highlighted by the summer's stock market rout.

Teams sent by the CCDI held meetings at the People's Bank of China, the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange over the weekend.

The meetings kicked off a review of the entire industry, which was expected to last two months, the agency said on its website on Saturday.

Zhang is the highest profile financial figure reported to be under investigation since the watchdog said in early September that Zhang Yujun, an assistant chairman overseeing brokerages and fund houses at the China Securities Regulatory Commission, had been held on suspicion of "serious disciplinary violations". The term is usually a euphemism for corruption.

Around 10 officials of brokerage Citic Securities were detained in August in a crackdown on what the central government called "malicious short selling" and which they blamed for the turmoil in stock markets in the summer.

Telephone calls to Agricultural Bank of China's public relations and investor relations departments went unanswered yesterday.

The anti-graft campaign has touched all areas of mainland life, as President Xi Jinping takes aim at a widespread and entrenched problem that could threaten the legitimacy of party rule. Some 100,000 people have been detained nationwide during the campaign, which has also seen officials banned from lavish entertaining, dealing a blow to luxury goods retailers, high-end restaurants and other leisure and entertainment industries.

Zhang, 56, has been with Agricultural Bank since 1985. He was appointed deputy governor in 2001, and formally made a governor in 2009. He has served as bank president since 2009.

Agricultural Bank was the first state-owned commercial bank to be set up on the mainland in 1951. It was restructured from a state-owned bank into a joint stock bank in 2009, and was listed on the Hong Kong and Shanghai bourses in 2010. In the third quarter of 2015, total assets were 17.7 trillion yuan (HK$21.7 trillion).

It has moved away from its agricultural roots and now has businesses ranging from manufacturing and retail to property.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: AgBank chief held in graft probe