Hong Kong a Haven for Corrupt Chinese Officials

February 15, 2015 Updated: February 15, 2015

While China remains the main battle field as corruption busters and corrupt officials duke it out, the fight has slowly spread to the nearby financial hub of Hong Kong, where the workload of local police now includes assisting Chinese authorities in recovering illicit wealth.

A widely reported story in the Hong Kong media last year involved Zhao Dannuo, a 22-year-old mainland Chinese woman. In March 2014, she fled after posting 30 million HK dollars in bail (about US$3.68 million), on a charge of money laundering about 8 million HK dollars (about US$1 million) using the Bank of China (in Hong Kong) for two weeks in December 2012.

In addition, Zhao was also charged with opening up 8 additional accounts for laundering over 10 billion Hong Kong dollars (about US$1.23 billion).

Children, close relatives, and even mistresses can all serve as representatives.

Also in March last year, an investigation case was formally established against the former deputy head of the Chinese military, Xu Caihou. His wife and daughter were also taken away by investigators working with the Chinese Communist Party’s anti-graft watchdog, the Central Committee for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), reported Hong Kong newspaper Oriental Daily on Feb. 15.

Xu’s wife also went by the last name Zhao, the same family name as Zhao Dannuo. Having the same name does not immediately mean Zhao Dannuo is a blood relative of Xu’s wife. Nonetheless, it was widely speculated that Zhao was moving the 10 billion on behalf of Xu, according to Oriental Daily, based on when Zhao’s crime was exposed.

Xu Caihou was eventually purged in June last year, and his case referred to the judicial system for prosecution. After he was purged, mainland Chinese media reported the vast extent of his wealth, including one ton of banknotes stored in boxes in his basement.

A Safe Haven

According to another Oriental Daily article, also published on Feb. 15, corrupt officials, even village officials in the wealthy coastal provinces, are all finding different people to be their “representatives” in Hong Kong for the purpose of safeguarding the wealth the officials have moved out of China.

Children, close relatives, and even mistresses can all serve as representatives.

Cheng Keijie, formerly vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, who has since been executed for bribery, once transferred over 40 million yuan (about US$6.4 million) to his mistress Li Ping in Hong Kong, according to Oriental Daily.

Ou Lingao, former vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the Municipal People’s Congress in Dongguan, a city in Guangdong Province of southern China, had his wife move to Hong Kong in the 1990s.

Ou’s daughter eventually also took up studying in Hong Kong. And the amount of money he was accused of illegally pocketing—70 million HK dollars (about US$11 million)—was saved in the personal account of his wife in Hong Kong.

Ou bought a house for his own at Kowloon, an urban area in Hong Kong, while his wife purchased over 10 apartment units and 3 different parking spaces.

The Party revoked Ou’s membership in January 2013, according to People’s Net, the online publication of the CCP mouthpiece People’s Daily.

Cao Jianliao, the former deputy mayor of Guangzhou, the capital and largest city of Guangdong Province, was accused of accepting over 300 million yuan in bribery (about US$48 million) while his wife and son moved to Hong Kong in the 1990s.

When Cao was arrested in December 2013, he was found to have in his possession a Hong Kong identity card with the pseudonym Cao Xiaohua and a Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passport.

Follow Frank on Twitter: @HwaiDer