Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign

China’s corruption watchdog takes down self-styled Mao-tai liquor mogul who went into business for himself

  • Wang Xiaoguang accumulated so many bottles of the fiery spirit while on Communist Party business he opened shops and employed relatives to sell it
PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 December, 2018, 5:33pm
UPDATED : Monday, 17 December, 2018, 11:27pm

A former vice-governor of Guizhou province accumulated so many bottles of Mao-tai liquor through his official duties that he became a wine seller and ran four trading companies to turn them into cash, anti-corruption officials said.

His wife had to pour away “hundreds of bottles of expensive Chinese baijiu”, the spirit distilled from sorghum, wheat or rice, before the agency closed in, Anti-Corruption Watch, published by Sichuan Daily, revealed on Saturday.

Wang Xiaoguang was a former member of the Communist Party’s standing committee in Guizhou and vice-governor. He made headlines on April 1 by becoming the first “tiger” taken down by the National Supervisory Commission, China’s highest anti-corruption authority which was established in the autumn of 2017.

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He was kicked out of the party in September and prosecuted in Chongqing two months later. According to the commission, Wang was accused of “indulging in luxury banquets” and “living extravagantly”.

In November, Xinhua, China’s state news agency, reported that Wang had been charged with taking bribes, embezzlement and insider trading.

Whenever Wang needed to entertain guests, he would ask his subordinates to provide Mao-tai for the occasion, the commission said. After the event, he would take home the unopened bottles.

On average, an authentic bottle of Mao-tai for a formal dining occasion could cost more than 1,300 yuan (US$188).

The anti-corruption report said: “Six months before his downfall, his wife poured hundreds of bottles of expensive Mao-tai down the drain. It is estimated that the amount of liquor dumped by them was worth hundreds of thousands of yuan.”

Wang could collect as many as 50 bottles of authentic aged Mao-tai a month for free – not including those given to him by people seeking favour from a party bigwig and vice-governor.

He had collected so many bottles he started a business to turn them into cash. This meant four liquor licences and four stores in Guiyang, all operated by relatives.

The report said Wang would ask his subordinates to buy from his family stores when business was slow.

As all aged Mao-tai typically bears a barcode, some government officials realised that the liquor they bought for Wang had started popping up on the market again.

In August, Guizhou province asked cadres to dump Mao-tai shares or not to take any part in the industry.

Wang was not the only official in Guizhou to fall foul of the commission, merely the most high profile.

On December 5, the provincial anti-graft agency announced that Zhao Fujun – a former senior traffic police officer in the city of Liupanshui – and Guo Rui, the city’s deputy tourism director of Meihua Mountain area, were both under investigation for “receiving Mao-tai and reselling it for profit”.

Two county party chiefs were also detained by the watchdog for accepting the drink as a gift.

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Distillers have also been targets of government anti-corruption watchdogs in recent years.

Three former high-level executives of the China Kweichow Moutai Distillery, which is owned by Guizhou province, have faced corruption charges.

In March 2016, Tan Dinghua, former deputy general manager and financial director, was investigated for “breaches of discipline”. Tan is still under investigation and has not been charged.

Fourteen months earlier, Fang Guoxing, deputy general secretary and deputy general manager of the group, was dismissed, while in April 2007, Qiao Hong, then general manager of the group, was arrested. He was tried and given a suspended death sentence in 2010 for taking bribes.