An exclusive Reuters report revealed that Chinese authorities recently seized 90 billion yuan worth of assets from family members and associates of Zhou Yongkang, formerly one of China’s most powerful politicians who’s now ensnared in one of the biggest corruption scandals the country has seen in decades.
According to the report:
More than 300 of Zhou’s relatives, political allies, proteges and staff have also been taken into custody or questioned in the past four months, the sources, who have been briefed on the investigation, told Reuters.
The first two sources said prosecutors and the party’s anti-corruption watchdog had frozen bank accounts with deposits totaling 37 billion yuan and seized domestic and overseas bonds with a combined value of 51 billion yuan after raiding homes in Beijing, Shanghai and five provinces.
Investigators had also confiscated about 300 apartments and villas worth around 1.7 billion yuan, antiques and contemporary paintings with a market value of 1 billion yuan and more than 60 vehicles, the sources added. Other items seized included expensive liquor, gold, silver and cash in local and foreign currencies.
The seized assets belonged to those in custody, the sources said, without saying how many people in total had been detained compared to just questioned. Most of the assets were not in Zhou’s name, they added.
The size of asset seizures and number of people involved in the investigation brings the probe to a level never seen in modern China.
Zhou, a former member of the Politburo Standing Committee, has reportedly been held under house arrest since December as Communist Party officials investigated accusations of corruption against him that surfaced last August.
If a potential trial were to result in the downfall of Zhou, 71, it would be considered “one of the biggest purges since the Communist Party took power in 1949”, media reports say.
The government has not yet made an official statement about Zhou or the case against him, and it was allegedly discouraged to bring up the topic during the annual press conference of Li Keqiang earlier this month.
Authorities had already detained associates of Zhou for investigation prior to this seizure, including Jiang Jiemin, Shen Dingcheng and Li Dongsheng. The batch of investigations were prodded by Xi Jinping’s highly touted campaign against corruption, in which he’s pledged to take down powerful “tigers” and lowly “flies” (although some figures have managed to skate by unscathed).