Relatives of China's president-in-waiting, Xi Jinping, hold a wide-ranging financial portfolio of assets which could be worth billions of pounds, it emerged yesterday.
In addition to holding stakes in companies with assets amounting to more than £240m, the relations hold an 18 per cent indirect stake in a rare-earths firm with £1.1bn in assets and have been linked to at least seven luxury properties in Hong Kong worth an estimated £36m, according to public documents compiled by the financial news agency Bloomberg.
The potentially explosive report makes no link between Mr Xi, his wife, the well-known folk singer Peng Liyuan, or their daughter, and the alleged multi-billion pound assets held by his extended family. It does not make any accusations of wrongdoing.
But the revelations come as Beijing is engaged in a highly public crackdown on corruption in China's elite political circles, ahead of the once-in-a-decade power transition that will see Mr Xi take over as Communist Party leader in the autumn, and become China's president next spring.
In a sign of how sensitive these kinds of revelations can be, China blocked access to Bloomberg's website on the mainland after the report was published, and also appeared to block a number of Bloomberg sites on Sina Weibo, China's main online social network.
Mr Xi has built his political reputation on tackling corruption. He earned his stripes when he dealt with a smuggling scandal in the southern Fujian province and presided over a clampdown on corruption in the eastern province of Zhejiang.
The atmosphere in Chinese political circles has been jittery since the sacking in March of Bo Xilai, the former party chief of China's biggest municipality, Chongqing, amid a corruption scandal which saw his wife, Gu Kailai, implicated in the alleged murder of British businessman Neil Heywood.
The Bo scandal has fed a growing public perception that corruption among officials is rife, and has brought particular attention on the children of the revolutionary elite, known as the "princelings", of whom Mr Bo is one. Mr Xi and three of his siblings are also regarded as "princelings" – the children of veteran revolutionary and guerrilla leader, Xi Zhongxun, who helped Mao Zedong win the Civil War in 1949.
Bloomberg said many of the assets detailed in the report were held by Mr Xi's older sister Qi Qiaoqiao, her husband Deng Jiagui and her daughter. Mr Deng allegedly holds an indirect 18 per cent stake in a rare-earths company while Ms Qi and Mr Deng are said to hold assets in a property and a diversified holding company called Shenzhen Yuanwei Investment Co totalling 1.83bn yuan (£180m), among other assets, the report said.
However, analysts believe the fall-out from the revelations would be unlikely to affect Mr Xi's forthcoming promotion. "This is not enough on its own to derail the succession, but it is seriously embarrassing," said Steve Yui-Sang Tsang, professor of contemporary Chinese studies and director of the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham.
Questions have often been raised about the corporate links of President Hu Jintao's son, Hu Haifeng, and the personal fortune of Zhang Beili, wife of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, is regularly scrutinised by the media in Taiwan. "No one has found evidence on Hu or Wen themselves. But look at Wen's wife and Hu's son, they are doing incredibly well," said Professor Tsang.