Economy

Sins of the father

The most unusual bribe yet: a son, or two, for the ex-statistics chief

Wang-Baoan-w

Wang: serving a life sentence

Maybe Mark Twain was right when he talked about ‘lies, damn lies and statistics’. Certainly the maxim has merit in the case of Wang Baoan, a man who held the post of director of the National Bureau of Statistics for less than a year in 2015, before being exposed for deceit and corruption.

Wang was at the bureau at a time when China’s stock market was in meltdown mode. Appearing at a press conference at the end of January 2016, he was in feisty mood, extolling the health of the Chinese economy and dismissing claims that a harder landing was unavoidable. Rejecting his reassurances on the health of the A-share market, shares still dropped a 6% during his media session.

But an even more unexpected denouement would follow. Three hours and 40 minutes later, the Central Discipline Inspection Commission announced that Wang had been detained on “severe disciplinary violations”.

That was a dubious new record, Beijing News pointed out: the fastest time ever for a senior official to be cuffed after having made a public appearance.

Wang was actually a lot less confident about the outlook than his comments to the press had suggested too.

In fact, when anti-graft investigators arrested him, they found that he had already packed his suitcase, Beijing News says.

Also in his possession: two different passports and two sets of first-class air tickets, one for a flight to Paris and the other to Frankfurt.

Apparently he had been planning to flee the country that night. His mistress was arrested the same day in a VIP lounge at Beijing’s airport.

Born in 1963, the financial technocrat began his career in the State Administration of Taxation before moving to the Ministry of Finance in 1998, where he held several positions, including a role as secretary to former minister of finance Xiang Huaicheng. In 2012 Wang was promoted to a role as one of the country’s vice finance ministers, before getting his next appointment to run China’s statistics bureau.

Most of his crimes were committed during his spell in the ministry of finance, where he served as a key decisionmaker – allocating state funding and giving approvals for new projects.

One of Wang’s pay-offs was a villa next door to the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing. The bribe – from a real estate developer – was worth more than Rmb50 million ($7 million). In a confession shown by state broadcaster CCTV last year, Wang explained how easy it all was: all he needed to do was “put a little circle” in a document, giving the green light to another property project in Jiangsu.

This was just one of the bribes that Wang received. And documents published by a court in Hebei late last month revealed that he was the recipient of another highly unusual gift from another corporate crony surnamed Guan.

According to National Business Daily, which cited the court ruling, Guan was the boss of an electronics firm in Shandong. He wanted to approach Wang in the hope of subsidies from the ministry of finance. After careful research, Guan discovered that Wang – who was in his 50s at the time – had lamented to friends that he had no son to carry on his family’s bloodline. So Guan paid a surrogate mother Rmb3.5 million to help Wang get the male heir he wanted.

In fact he got more than one son: two boys were born, the first in May 2015 and the second in January 2016.

In return, Guan’s firm won government subsidies worth more than Rmb90 million.

But only a week after his second son was born, Wang was put under investigation for corruption and he is currently serving a sentence of life imprisonment for taking bribes valued at more than Rmb150 million. All of his personal property, including the villa, has been confiscated by the state.


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