China finance boss jailed for life as part of major corruption purge

Court finds Wang Bin guilty taking $45m in bribes and hiding overseas deposits

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Wednesday 13 September 2023 11:04 BST
File: A woman walks past a branch of China Life Insurance in Shenyan
File: A woman walks past a branch of China Life Insurance in Shenyan (EPA)

The former chair of China's largest life insurer has been sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve in an ongoing crackdown on the financial industries by the Xi Jinping government.

Wang Bin, the former boss of China Life Insurance Co, was sentenced by a court in Jinan in eastern China’s Shandong province on Tuesday.

The court found him guilty of taking $45m in bribes and hiding $7.44m in overseas deposits, the China Central Television reported.

After two years, his sentence "can be commuted to life imprisonment... (with) no further reduction or parole", the reports said.

Mr Wang was placed under investigation last year after the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection – the country's top anti-graft agency – accused him of refusing to implement policies that would prevent financial risks.

Shortly after he was arrested in September 2022 and expelled from the Communist Party and removed from public office.

Since his rise to power, the Chinese president has waged a war on deep-seated official corruption. Authorities in China in April warned the country's top banking executives that the crackdown, which began in 2021, was far from over.

The anti-graft watchdog launched an inspection into more than 20 institutions including the central bank, the banking and insurance regulator, stock exchanges, commercial banks and asset-management companies, in its first coordinated inspection of the sector since 2015.

The watchdog said the inspections were a comprehensive “political examination” of party committees at the financial institutions and regulators.

Earlier in May, billionaire owner of commodities giant Cedar Holdings, Zhang Jin, was arrested for allegedly raising illegal funding worth $2.9bn.

Lai Xiaomin, the former chairman of Huarong Asset Management, was executed in 2021 after being found guilty of $277min bribes between 2008 and 2018.

The same year, former China Development Bank chairman Hu Huaibang was sentenced to life in prison on charges of receiving $13m in bribes.

In 2017, Xiang Junbo, the former chair of China’s insurance regulator, was removed from his post after a probe of one of the most senior financial regulators in years. He was sentenced to 11 years in jail in 2020.

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