Chinese have developed a taste for wine, and it appears some the more crooked among local authorities will squeeze every grape for what it’s worth. The National Audit Office recently released a report revealing that Chinese government funds have been diverted to acquire French vineyards in Burgundy and Bordeaux, with money being used to pay for a trip to Las Vegas and more.
According to AFP:
Two companies in the northeastern port of Dalian were granted 268 million yuan ($43 million) by local authorities last year to buy overseas technology, but instead purchased 14 vineyards in France, the National Audit Office (NAO) said in its annual report.
Haichang Group, one of the firms named by the NAO, is currently the biggest Chinese owner of Bordeaux vineyards with more than 10 estates including Chateau Chenu-Lafitte, according to French media reports.
Chinese investors have been among the biggest buyers of French wineries in recent years, prompting concerns that were highlighted by a report last year by Paris’ money laundering investigators Tracfin calling for “increased vigilance” on such deals.
The NAO said a total of 314 cases where “major violation of laws and disciplines” was suspected, involving more than 1,100 people, had been “uncovered and transferred” to investigators.
The report cited one case in which China Geological officials had a three-day fling in Las Vegas during a trip to North America, time that was meant to be used studying shale gas technology. The officials later claimed they were working in Canada.
Things are not looking good for China’s big cheeses. Or for the country’s increasing demand for cheese.
By Aliaume Leroy