02/01/2007, 00.00
CHINA
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More arrests and charges against the ‘Shanghai Gang’

Leading businessmen and officials are involved. Local prosecutors are "working closely" with state prosecutors and anti-graft investigators. Rumours abound about the “disappearance” of Deputy Prime Minister Huang Ju.

Shanghai (AsiaNews/Agencies) – More than 20 people—including 11 government officials—have been implicated in Shanghai’s pension fund scandal, and at least seven have been handed over to the judiciary, mainland media reported yesterday. Also noticeable is Deputy Prime Minister Huang Ju’s absence from recent public functions.

Wu Guangyu, head of the Shanghai Procuratorate, told members of the Shanghai People's Congress yesterday that the cases of seven suspects had been handed over to the judiciary. Mr Wu also said prosecutors in Shanghai were still "working closely" with state prosecutors and anti-graft investigators on other cases connected to the scandal.

Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng, who is also caretaker Shanghai party boss since party secretary Chen Liangyu’s removal, said Tuesday that more than ten business executives and other people were involved in serious offences.

Last September, then Shanghai party secretary Chen Liangyu was accused of misappropriating some 3.45 billion yuan from the pension fund with the complicity of officials and businessmen for private real estate development, speculation and loans to firms like the Shanghai Feidian Investment Development Co Ltd controlled by businessman Zhang Rongkun, China’s 16th richest man. Illegally diverted money has been reclaimed and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China ahs been tasked with managing the city's social security funds, which include pensions, medical insurance and unemployment insurance.

Mayor Han also confirmed that property developer Chau Ching-ngai, one of Chen’s cronies, was re-arrested for manipulating stock prices and falsifying the registered capital of companies under his Nongkai Development Group.

Under investigation are: Wang Guoxiong, former president of Shanghai Industrial Investment Group; Li Yizeng, former financial manager of Shanghai Industrial Investment Group; Han Fanghe, former general manager of Huaan Fund Management; Wu Hongmei, former deputy chairman of Shanghai State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission; Cheng Yanmin, former deputy head of Shanghai Electric Group's investment management department; Xu Wei, former chief financial officer of Shanghai Electric; Zhu Wenjin, former director of Shanghai Housing and Land Administration's land-use management section.

For some analysts, this kind of reporting on national media represents a qualitative change in the feud against the ‘Shanghai Gang’ of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

Meanwhile a whirlwind of rumours surrounds Deputy Prime Minister Huang Ju who has been absent recently from several public events.

Huang, who is one of the nine members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo and in charge of the financial sector, was one of Jiang’s closest aides.

He has not been seen for days and missed the two-day Central Conference on Financial Affairs that ended on January 19. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao was in his place.

He is said to be suffering from pancreatic cancer, but for some observers there are other reasons. A week ago, Wang Weigong, director of Huang's office, was reportedly sacked and put under investigation for suspected corruption.

Although the report could not be officially confirmed it is a further sign of the ongoing struggle between Jiang’s group and current Chinese President Hu Jintao.

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