Leaked documents from two prominent offshore financing firms have revealed that relatives of China’s top leaders and at least 15 of China’s richest executives have wealth in secret accounts in offshore tax havens, according to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).
The more than 2.5 million leaked files, which were obtained by the ICIJ, list as many as 22,000 offshore clients from China and Hong Kong among those who have used two offshore firms to move their wealth overseas.
According to the ICIJ, among the clients are relatives of current President Xi Jinping, the children of former Premier Wen Jiabao, the daughter of former Premier Li Peng and the son-in-law of former Paramount leader Deng Xiaoping. The report could not be independently verified, as some of those documents have not been made public.
The ICIJ said the investigation had also shed light on the role of prominent Western finance companies, such as PricewaterhouseCoopers, UBS and Credit Suisse, in helping Chinese leaders create offshore companies to utilise legal loopholes.
Credit Suisse had helped the son of Wen Jiabao, Wen Yunsong, in creating a British Virgin Islands-registered company, of which he was the lone director. Another BVI company was half owned by the brother-in-law of President Xi Jinping, Deng Jiagui. Mr. Xi’s sister is a prominent real estate developer.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry rejected the findings of the report. "From the point of view of a reader, the logic in the relevant articles is hard for people to believe. This cannot but make people think there is an intent behind it," spokesperson Qin Gang told reporters at a briefing, Reuters reported.
When asked if China would seek information about the documents, he only said, "Those who are clean are clean, and those who are dirty are dirty."
While the setting up of offshore companies may not be strictly illegal, the moving of wealth by relatives of leaders into secretive overseas accounts is likely to bring renewed attention in China on the issue of officials’ assets. Only on Wednesday, lawyer Xu Zhiyong, who has been campaigning for public disclosure of assets, became the latest anti-corruption activist to be put on trial.
However, the websites of the ICIJ and its media partners who had published the investigation, including the Guardian, El Pais and Le Monde, were all blocked in China on Wednesday.