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中国外交部严正抗议瑞士银行公布中国官员财产(组图)zt
送交者:  2016年02月22日10:57:30 于 [世界时事论坛] 发送悄悄话

筆者按:此文轉自 http://news.have8.com/article/13101646.html

本人要向讀者致以歉意的是此文大部份是英文。

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中国外交部严正抗议瑞士银行公布中国官员财产(组图)

□ zuiriche11 博客 ‖ 2016-02-20   


敬请注意:新闻取自各大新闻媒体,新闻内容并不代表本网立场!

按说,一惯保持中立立场的瑞士,几百年来恪守保护银行客户隐私这一做法,树立了良好的口碑,为世人称道。瑞士为何突然一改百年传统,不再为银行客户保护隐私?这样的做法会不会损害瑞士百年来树立的良好信誉与形象?会不会给瑞士银行的业务招致不良后果?


 

 

对此,主流媒体保持奇怪的短时间沉默之后,官方终于按捺不住,出来铿锵表态——外交部发言人强烈抗议瑞士公布中国官员财产。在有关中国对瑞士承诺将自动向其他国家交出外国人账户的详细资料的消息,中国取何种应对立场时,外交部发言人底气十足,大言不惭的表态:“我们注意到瑞士的最新动向,我们严肃敦促瑞方以对世界和平负责、对人类安定团结负责和尊重他人财产隐私的态度,谨言慎行,充分认识公开顾客财产信息可能导致的严重后果,继续捍卫顾客隐私,以实际行动取信于国际社会,不要伤害相关顾客和国家的感情,否则造成一切严重后果,应由瑞士负责。我们一贯坚持“不论是什么人,不论其职位有多高,都要受到隐私保护,这绝不是句空话,我只能回答成这样了。”

据说,之所以不惮上述隐忧,目的只在一个——全球打击逃税举措最重大突破!随着全球经济一体化加快步伐,世界性的经济危机后果往往不再局限一国或几国之内,尤其是经济危机引发的一连串税务丑闻后,不得不使各国加大联手打击逃税的行动力度。其中,金融业界以自动交换信息的全球新标准便首当其冲。为此,有着百年信誉老店的瑞士银行家协会表示:“只要所交换信息仅与税收目的有关,瑞士的银行愿意与其他金融中心自动交换信息。”

当这则消息传开来后,网友几乎一致报以赞赏,主要从大陆贪官再也难以洗钱,藏匿巨额贪款角度解读。虽然瑞士银行此举主要是配合全球打击逃税,并非一定冲着大陆贪官而来,但客观上这种效果却非常明显,因此获得网友普遍好评。

对此,主流媒体保持奇怪的短时间沉默之后,官方终于按捺不住,出来铿锵表态——外交部发言人强烈抗议瑞士公布中国官员财产。在有关中国对瑞士承诺将自动向其他国家交出外国人账户的详细资料的消息,中国取何种应对立场时,外交部发言人底气十足,大言不惭的表态:“我们注意到瑞士的最新动向,我们严肃敦促瑞方以对世界和平负责、对人类安定团结负责和尊重他人财产隐私的态度,谨言慎行,充分认识公开顾客财产信息可能导致的严重后果,继续捍卫顾客隐私,以实际行动取信于国际社会,不要伤害相关顾客和国家的感情,否则造成一切严重后果,应由瑞士负责。我们一贯坚持“不论是什么人,不论其职位有多高,都要受到隐私保护,这绝不是句空话,我只能回答成这样了。”

如果说前期官方在此问题上的沉默,我们还可以理解为尴尬羞赧,暂且包容几分。但如果上述外交部发言属实,我们则极度无语!习李上台后,反腐风暴铺天盖地,一个又一个大小贪官相继落马,那阵势仿佛雷霆万钧,凸显习李反腐决心,为民间对腐败日盛一日深恶痛绝,民心流失挣得了可观的几分。

不过,对他们而言,在亡党与反腐败二选一上,如果动真格反腐导致亡党,宁可容忍腐败存在,也绝不容忍亡党。比如,民众深深期盼的公布官员财产,他们就置若罔闻,装聋作哑,不予回应。

但不幸的是,习李再怎么魔法无边,却无力对世界范围的反腐指手画脚,评头论足,乃至颐指气使。此次瑞士银行打破百年惯例,承诺将自动向其他国家交出外国人账户的详细资料,无疑如同打蛇三寸,令中国大陆贪官如坐针毡,惊恐不已。当那些深藏不露的贪官银行巨款一下子毫无遮拦的暴露在世人面前,他们在台面上的振振有词,正人君子形象一定会顷刻间土崩瓦解,那样的话,所有的谎言与欺骗将原形毕露,支撑他们的最后仅存的公信力将荡然无存,彼时,民心的向背将决定一个王朝的去留。

正是在这种危及贪官生命攸关的关头,外交部“大义凛然”站出来,对瑞士银行置内地贪官于死地的做法表示强烈抗议。外交部指斥瑞士银行“公开顾客财产信息可能导致的严重后果,”特意警告瑞士银行“不要伤害相关顾客和国家的感情,”否则“造成一切严重后果,应由瑞士负责。”这里我们不难看出,外交部之所以如此气急败坏,恼羞成怒。不外乎就是他们最担忧恐惧的大小贪官不明来源巨额财产公之于众的严重后果,将会导致国内众叛亲离,分崩离析。而所谓伤害相关顾客以及国家的感情,倒不如不必犹抱琵琶半遮面,直截了当的表明,不要伤害中国贪官的感情更通俗易懂,简单明了。

我们经常说,见过无耻,但没有见过这样无耻的。明明是自己做贼心虚,却偏偏打肿脸充胖子,装出一副受委屈,很无辜的摸样。明明是自己理亏气虚,却硬要装出一副凛然正气的样子教训他人,世界上还能找到如此相同的人群吗?按说,瑞士银行百年以来都坚持为客户保密制度,是基于对私人财产的尊重与呵护,非情所迫,不会轻易改变。以瑞士银行数百年来在客户中的高信誉度而言,不啻是一块金子招牌。热而,为了全球打击逃税,不让各国贪官有藏污纳垢之地,瑞士银行今天做出的妥协与牺牲,说明全球联手共同打击逃税与贪腐已经到了刻不容缓的地步,也说明瑞士银行此举完全是在不断变化的金融情况下的一种进步。他们不再囿于传统束缚,敢于打破百年老店一以贯之的保密制度,以求得世界各国联手对本国的贪官污吏严厉打击。

面对瑞士银行承诺将自动向其他国家交出外国人账户的详细资料而带来的中国官员恐慌,相信之后还有类似举措,令中国为数甚多的贪官猝不及防,胆战心惊。在信息渠道不对称不公开的情况下,国内的贪官以及他们把持的媒体,可以为所欲为,肆无忌惮,用谎言欺骗民众,恬不知耻的给自己一再涂脂抹粉,以掩盖真相背后的饕餮与丑恶,但在世界范围内他们无法掌控的如瑞士银行,他们则鞭长莫及,再也不能采取淫威与高压双重并举的办法愚弄民众,如此这般,离垮台的日子则为时不晚。如此,如坐针毡的他们就会撕下脸皮,像外交部提出抗议那样,不但没有震慑他国他人效果,反倒落个自取其辱的下场,岂不悲乎哉?!当大陆民众殷殷期盼执政党自己好之为之顺应民意,公布官员财产未果,瑞士银行承诺将自动向其他国家交出外国人账户的详细资料不啻从背后给了一刀,让他们痛不欲生,但这恰恰是大陆民众乐见其成的历史大趋势。但愿瑞士银行此举能够把他们从一枕黄粱的美梦中惊醒,认认真真面对国内民众日甚一日的官员财产公布呼声,而不是现在这样颟顸的抗议瑞士银行,授人以柄,笑掉大牙。

Close relatives of China’s top leaders have held secretive offshore companies in tax havens that helped shroud the Communist elite’s wealth, a leaked cache of documents reveals.

The confidential files include details of a real estate company co-owned by current President Xi Jinping’s brother-in-law and British Virgin Islands companies set up by former Premier Wen Jiabao’s son and also by his son-in-law.

Nearly 22,000 offshore clients with addresses in mainland China and Hong Kong appear in the files obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Among them are some of China’s most powerful men and women — including at least 15 of China’s richest, members of the National People’s Congress and executives from state-owned companies entangled in corruption scandals.



 

 

 

PricewaterhouseCoopers, UBS and other Western banks and accounting firms play a key role as middlemen in helping Chinese clients set up trusts and companies in the British Virgin Islands, Samoa and other offshore centers usually associated with hidden wealth, the records show. For instance, Swiss financial giant Credit Suisse helped Wen Jiabao’s son create his BVI company while his father was leading the country.

The files come from two offshore firms — Singapore-based Portcullis TrustNet and BVI-based Commonwealth Trust Limited — that help clients create offshore companies, trusts and bank accounts. They are part of a cache of 2.5 million leaked files that ICIJ has sifted through with help from more than 50 reporting partners in Europe, North America, Asia and other regions.

Since last April, ICIJ’s stories have triggered official inquiries, high-profile resignations and policy changes around the world.


Until now, the details on China and Hong Kong had not been disclosed.

The data illustrates the outsized dependency of the world’s second largest economy on tiny islands thousands of miles away. As the country has moved from an insular communist system to a socialist/capitalist hybrid, China has become a leading market for offshore havens that peddle secrecy, tax shelters and streamlined international deal making.

Every corner of China’s economy, from oil to green energy and from mining to arms trading, appears in the ICIJ data.

Xi Jinping and Wen JiabaoXi Jinping and Wen Jiabao: relatives appear in ICIJ's data.

Chinese officials aren’t required to disclose their assets publicly and until now citizens have remained largely in the dark about the parallel economy that can allow the powerful and well-connected to avoid taxes and keep their dealings secret. By some estimates, between $1 trillion and $4 trillion in untraced assets have left the country since 2000.

The growing onshore and offshore wealth of China’s elites “may not be strictly illegal,” but it is often tied to “conflict of interest and covert use of government power,” said Minxin Pei, a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College in California. “If there is real transparency, then the Chinese people will have a much better idea of how corrupt the system is [and] how much wealth has been amassed by government officials through illegal means.”

Top-level corruption is a politically sensitive issue in China as the country's economy cools and its wealth gap continues to widen. The country’s leadership has cracked down on journalists who have exposed the hidden wealth of top officials and their families as well as citizens who have demanded that government officials disclose their personal assets.

In November, a mainland Chinese news organization that was working with ICIJ to analyze the offshore data withdrew from the reporting partnership, explaining that authorities had warned it not to publish anything about the material.

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READ: HOW WE WORKED TO REPORT THIS STORY SECURELY IN CHINA

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ICIJ is keeping the identity of the news outlet confidential to protect journalists from government retaliation. Other partners in the investigation include the Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao, the Taiwanese magazine CommonWealth and the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.

The ICIJ team spent months sifting through the files and the leaked lists of offshore users. In most cases, names were registered in Romanized form, not Chinese characters, making matching extremely difficult. Many offshore users had provided a passport as well as an address when they set up their companies, which made it possible to confirm identities in many but not all cases. Some suspected princelings and officials in the files could not be confirmed and have not been included in this story. Along with the China and Hong Kong names, ICIJ’s files also include the names of roughly 16,000 offshore clients from Taiwan. ICIJ will continue to publish stories with its partners in the next few days and will release the Greater China names on its Offshore Leaks Database on Jan. 23.



Who’s Who in China’s Offshore Circles: Tap to see where the money goes


 

 


 

 

China's Politburo Standing Committee is the all-powerful group of seven (formerly nine) men who run the Communist Party and the country. The records obtained by ICIJ show that relatives of at least five current or former members of this small circle have incorporated companies in the Cook Islands or British Virgin Islands.

China’s “red nobility” — elites tied by blood or marriage to the current leadership or Party elders — are also popularly known as “princelings.” Ordinary Chinese have grown increasingly angry over their vast wealth and what many see as the hypocrisy of officials who tout “people-first” ideals but look the other way while their families peddle power and influence for personal gain.

The leaked offshore records include details of a BVI company 50 percent owned by President Xi’s brother-in-law Deng Jiagui. The husband of Xi’s older sister, Deng is a multimillionaire real estate developer and an investor in metals used in cell phones and other electronics. The records show the other half of Excellence Effort Property Development was owned by yet another BVI company belonging to Li Wa and Li Xiaoping, property tycoons who made news in July by winning a $2 billion bid to purchase commercial real estate in Shenzhen.



Since taking over as the Communist Party’s top official in 2012, Xi has sought to burnish his image with an aggressive anti-graft campaign, promising to go after official corruption involving both low-level “flies” and high-level “tigers.” Yet he has crushed a grassroots movement that called for government officials to publicly declare their assets. Wen Jiabao, who stepped down as premier in 2013 after a decade-long tenure, also styled himself as a reformer, cultivating an image of grandfatherly concern for China’s poor.

The ICIJ offshore files reveal that Wen’s son Wen Yunsong set up a BVI-registered company, Trend Gold Consultants, with help from the Hong Kong office of Credit Suisse in 2006. Wen Yunsong was the lone director and shareholder of the firm, which appears to have been dissolved in 2008.

Bare-bones company structures are often created to open bank accounts in the offshore firm’s name, helping obscure the relationship to the real account owner. It isn’t immediately clear from the documents what Trend Gold Consultants was used for. A U.S.-educated venture capitalist, Wen Yunsong co-founded a China-focused private equity firm and in 2012 became chairman of China’s Satellite Communications Co., a state-owned firm that aspires to be Asia’s largest satellite operator.

ICIJ made repeated attempts to reach Wen Yunsong and other individuals named in this story. Only a few responded. Wen was among those who did not. Citing confidentiality rules, a Credit Suisse spokesman said the bank is “unable to comment on this matter.”

The ICIJ files also shed light on the BVI’s previously unreported role in a burgeoning scandal involving Wen Jiabao’s daughter, Wen Ruchun, also known as Lily Chang. The New York Times has reported that JPMorgan Chase & Co. paid a firm that she ran, Fullmark Consultants, $1.8 million in consulting fees. U.S. securities regulators are investigating the relationship as part of a probe into the bank’s alleged use of princelings to increase its influence in China.

Fullmark Consultants appears to have been set up in a manner that obscured Wen Ruchun’s relationship to the firm, the ICIJ files indicate. Her name does not show up in any of the incorporation documents in the ICIJ data, though a 'Lily Chang' is CC’d in one August, 2009 email correspondence about the company. Her husband Liu Chunhang, a former Morgan Stanley finance guru, created Fullmark Consultants in the BVI in 2004 and was the sole director and shareholder of the firm until 2006, the same year he took a government job at the agency that regulates China’s banking industry.

Liu transferred control of the company, the ICIJ files show, to a Wen family friend, Zhang Yuhong, a wealthy businesswoman and colleague of Wen Jiabao’s brother. The Times reported that Zhang also helped control other Wen family assets including diamond and jewelry ventures.

The ICIJ files show that offshore provider Portcullis TrustNet billed UBS AG for a certificate of good standing for Fullmark Consultants in October 2005, indicating a business relationship between Fullmark and the Swiss bank. In response to ICIJ’s questions, UBS issued a statement saying its “know-your-client” policies as well as procedures to deal with politically-sensitive clients are among “the strictest in the industry.” Liu and Zhang did not respond to ICIJ's requests for comment.



A 2007 U.S. Department of State cable passed along a source’s tip that Premier Wen was “disgusted with his family’s activities,” and that “Wen’s wife and children all have a reputation as people who can ‘get things done’ for the right price.” The cable, part of the Wikileaks document dump, reported that Wen’s kin “did not necessarily take bribes, [but] they are amenable to receiving exorbitant ‘consulting fees.’ ”

The records also include incorporations by relatives of Deng Xiaoping, former Premier Li Peng, and former President Hu Jintao.

China experts say that the growing wealth and business interests of the princelings, including offshore holdings, are a dangerous liability for the ruling Communist Party but that people in leadership positions are too involved to stop it.

“What’s the point of running the Communist Party if you can’t get a couple billion for your family?” said Steve Dickinson, a China-based American lawyer who has investigated fraud cases involving BVI companies. “The issue is enormous and has tremendous significance for China, and the fact that everybody dances around it and doesn’t want to talk about it is understandable but scandalous.”

China embraces offshore

The story of China’s involvement with the offshore world begins with paramount leader Deng Xiaoping’s deepening of economic reforms in the early 1990s.

Laws reorganizing China’s economy drove many Chinese offshore because they were written with state-owned enterprises in mind, not fledgling ventures like the entrepreneur trying to “market the latest iPhone app,” according to Don Clarke, a China specialist at the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C.

Western bankers, accountants and investors wary of doing business on strictly Chinese terms also pushed the offshore model.

“It was us, the foreigners, that imposed this,” said Rocky Lee, head of the Greater China corporate law practice of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft. “It had to do with the foreign investors’ general discomfort with Chinese rules and regulations.”



Other factors — including tightened capital controls within China as a result of the 1990s Asian debt crisis — also nudged Chinese offshore. Many had flocked to Hong Kong, then still a British territory, to incorporate businesses. As the 1997 handover back to China approached, though, Hong Kong itself began to look risky and many companies sought more far-flung offshore destinations.

The British Virgin Islands became a favorite haven for Chinese wanting to move businesses and cash offshore.

China’s tax regime favored foreign investment, helping fuel the push to incorporate in the BVI and other offshore centers. Some Chinese manufacturers, for example, reduced their taxes by a maneuver known as “round-tripping” — setting up subsidiaries outside the country, then selling their products at low cost to the subsidiaries, allowing the parent companies to avoid taxes by showing little or no profits inside China. The offshore entities in turn resold the goods at profitable markup — then slipped the profits back to the parents as untaxed “foreign investment” from the BVI or Hong Kong.

Today 40 percent of the BVI’s offshore business comes from China and other Asian nations, according to BVI authorities.

Every corner of China’s economy, from oil to green energy and from mining to arms trading, appears in the ICIJ data

Frank Savage, the BVI’s governor from 1998 to 2002, says the islands helped cultivate the relationship by persuading Chinese authorities that they were a “well-regulated territory with a robust and sound legal system.”

Critics of the offshore system, though, see the BVI in a different light — as a “no-questions-asked” haven for shadowy dealings. Tax Justice Network, an advocacy group, says BVI offshore entities have been linked to “scandal after scandal after scandal” — the result of a corporate secrecy regime that creates an “effective carte blanche for BVI companies to hide and facilitate all manner of crimes and abuses.”



Among the important Chinese who went offshore in the late 1990s was Fu Liang, the son of Peng Zhen, one of the “Eight Elders” of the Communist Party and a top leader of the National People’s Congress in the 1980s.

Offshore Leaks records show Fu — who has invested in yachting clubs and golf courses on the mainland — controlled at least five offshore companies established in the BVI between 1997 and 2000. He used one of them, South Port Development Limited, to acquire a Philippines hotel in 2000.

TrustNet, the offshore services provider, helped Fu set up some of his offshore companies. By 2000, Trustnet was among the offshore services firms that were making an all-out drive to sign up clients from China, doing marketing meetings at the Shanghai offices of what were then known as the “Big 5” accounting firms: KPMG, Ernst & Young, Pricewaterhouse, Deloitte & Touche, and Arthur Andersen.

The audit firm now known as PricewaterhouseCoopers helped incorporate more than 400 offshore entities through TrustNet for clients from the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan, the ICIJ records show. Swiss banking giant UBS helped set up more than 1,000 offshore structures via TrustNet for clients from those three markets.

UBS Hong Kong helped Yang Huiyan, China's richest woman, with an estimated net worth of US$ 8.3 billion, establish a BVI company in 2006. Yang, who inherited a real estate fortune from her father, did not respond to questions about her offshore company, Joy House Enterprises Limited.

The following year the Swiss bank referred another Chinese real estate billionaire, Zhang Xin, to TrustNet. Zhang, founder of Soho China, a company that has reshaped much of the Beijing skyline, recently made headlines by buying a $26 million Manhattan townhouse. Through a representative, Zhang declined to answer questions about her BVI company Commune Investment Ltd., a name similar to that of her exclusive boutique hotel outside Beijing, the Commune by the Great Wall.



Li Jinyuan, a business tycoon and philanthropist with a net worth estimated at $1.2 billion in 2011, was director of seven BVI companies that PricewaterhouseCoopers helped incorporate between 2004 and 2008. According to the ICIJ files, the BVI companies appear to be connected to his Tiens Group conglomerate, which has interests in biotechnology, tourism, e-commerce and real estate.

In a 2005 marketing memo marked “strictly private and confidential,” TrustNet staffers were encouraged to improve ties with Credit Suisse in Hong Kong. They courted Credit Suisse and UBS with wine and cheese sessions. On the mainland, where foreign banks were restricted, they took a different tack: “In Shanghai, we will target international law firms and accounting firms,” the 2005 memo says.

The marketing campaign paid off. The number of companies TrustNet set up for clients in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan tripled from 1,500 to 4,800 between 2003 and 2007.

The TrustNet clients who incorporated companies during this period include two current delegates to the National People's Congress, China's legislature.

Wei Jianghong, who represents Anhui province in the legislature while serving as chairman of state-owned Tongling Nonferrous Metals, was a director of Tong Guan Resources Holdings, a BVI company set up in 2006. Tongling used Tong Guan to invest $10 million in a $50 million copper processing project in Chile in 2007.

Another delegate with offshore holdings is Ma Huateng, the founder of China's leading online chat company, Tencent. Ma is worth $10 billion and is ranked No. 5 on Forbes’ list of billionaires in China. In 2007, he became director of TCH Pi Limited in the BVI with fellow Tencent founder Zhang Zhidong.

A spokeswoman for Ma said TCH Pi is a Tencent company that “has nothing to do with [Ma or Zhang] personally,” but the firm doesn't show up in Tencent corporate filings, and its purpose isn't clear.



Profits and corruption

Things have changed dramatically for China since it first dipped its toe into the offshore world. The country is wealthier and offshore centers serve increasingly as channels not only for capital that “round-trips” out of the country and back again, but also for overseas investment and accessing markets for metals, minerals and other resources.

Defenders of China’s offshore push say the offshore system has helped boost the country’s economy.

“I think we should face the reality, which is that Chinese capital is flowing out. I think it’s actually a beneficial thing,” said Mei Xinyu, a researcher at China’s Commerce Ministry. “Of course I support the idea that a company should incorporate in its host country. But if the host country can't provide the right environment, then incorporating the company in an offshore center is actually a practical choice.”

With markets in China often hamstrung by red tape and government intervention, incorporating offshore can smooth the way to do business, said William Vlcek, author of Offshore Finance and Small States: Sovereignty, Size and Money.

There’s also evidence, though, that many Chinese companies and individuals have used offshore entities to engage in illicit or illegal behavior.

In September Zhang Shuguang, a former high-level Chinese railway executive, pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the wake of allegations that he’d funneled $2.8 billion into offshore accounts. An internal government report released by the Bank of China revealed that public officials — including executives at state-owned companies — had embezzled more than $120 billion out of China since the mid-1980s, some of it funneled through the BVI.

Portcullis TrustNet helped state-run shipping giant Cosco incorporate a BVI company in 2000. Among the numerous directors of Cosco Information Technology Limited were current Cosco Group chairman Ma Zehua and Song Jun, an executive who would stand trial in 2011 for embezzlement and bribery. After Cosco sent Song to help oversee a Qingdao subsidiary in 2001, he set up a fake BVI joint venture partner and used it to siphon millions from the building of Qingdao’s gleaming Cosco Plaza, prosecutors said. State news service Xinhua said he embezzled $6 million, took $1 million in bribes from a Taiwanese business partner and purchased 37 apartments in Beijing, Tianjin and Qingdao with his ill-gotten earnings. His trial was adjourned but no verdict was publicly announced.



China’s corruption-plagued oil industry — which recently has been the target of criminal investigations that have led to the suspension of key oil executives — is a big player in the offshore world. China’s three big state-owned oil companies, which are counted among the largest companies in the world, are linked to dozens of BVI firms that show up in the ICIJ data.

Former PetroChina executive Li Hualin, who was dismissed in August after coming under investigation for alleged “serious violations of discipline”, often a party shorthand for corruption, was the director of two BVI companies, the ICIJ files reveal.

While some of these offshore firms are disclosed in corporate filings, several others linked to individual executives — including Zhang Bowen of PetroChina’s natural gas distribution arm Kunlun Energy and Yang Hua of China National Offshore Oil Corporation — appear to operate in the dark, and their purpose is not clear. PetroChina and CNOOC did not respond to ICIJ’s repeated requests for comment.

Other scandal-tainted Chinese who have used the BVI to do business include Huang Guangyu, once China’s richest man. The ICIJ records show that he and his wife Du Juan set up a maze of at least 31 BVI companies between 2001 and 2008 as they built the largest consumer electronics retail chain in China.

The husband, Huang, was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2010 after Chinese courts convicted him of insider trading, bribery and stock price manipulation. Du Juan was convicted of related charges but was released from prison in 2010 after serving a brief time.

While Huang is in prison and many of his assets are frozen, his business empire survives through his offshore network of companies. In 2011, one of his BVI firms, Eagle Vantage Assets Management, made a bid for a retired British aircraft carrier that Huang wanted to turn into a luxury shopping mall (the Brits in the end decided to scrap the ship).

He still owns more than 30 percent of Gome, his electronics retailer, via two companies in the BVI, Shining Crown Holdings and Shine Group.

Offshore’s future

As concerns grow about the wealth of corporate oligarchs, government officials and their families, some Chinese have braved the government’s anger by raising questions about corruption.

A grassroots group, the New Citizens Movement, uses the Internet and small demonstrations to press for greater transparency. “How can you fight corruption if you don’t even dare to disclose your personal assets?” the group’s founder, legal advocate and activist Xu Zhiyong, wrote last spring.

The government’s response has been swift. It has arrested Xu and detained more than 20 other members of the group, indicting some for “disturbing public order” or “illegal assembly,” charges frequently used to silence dissidents.

The government has also cracked down on foreign media that have focused attention on the gap between wealth and poverty in China. After The New York Times and Bloomberg News reported on the onshore assets of China’s princelings, the government blocked their websites and delayed approving visas for their journalists.

After years of inaction, the U.S., the U.K. and international organizations have begun pushing reforms that, they say, would reduce offshore abuses. China has been less aggressive in pressing for changes in the offshore system.

Big loopholes in tax laws have allowed Chinese individuals to operate with relative freedom offshore. They weren’t required to report their foreign holdings.

“Chinese policy makers didn’t envision individuals absconding with that much money,” Lee, the Beijing-based corporate lawyer, said.

Now mainland authorities are moving to get a handle on the flow of private wealth offshore. New rules that went into effect Jan. 1 require Chinese to report their overseas assets.

How aggressively China joins global efforts to reshape the offshore system may have a big impact on the current push for reform. Just as China has become an increasingly important player in the global economy, it has also become more important as a supplier of clients to the market for offshore accounts and companies.

A 2013 industry-sponsored poll of 200-plus bankers and other offshore professionals found that “China-related demand” is the key driver in the offshore market’s growth. The chief of a BVI offshore services firm said in the survey: “China is the most important location for client origination for business in the next five years.”

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