11/27/2012, 00.00
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Wen Jiabao and NY Times still at odds over corruption accusations

Ping An Insurance, one of China's largest insurance companies, could sue the US paper over a second article saying that the premier used its influence to avoid the company's break-up with a windfall peaking at US$ 2.2 billion for both himself and his group.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The Chinese government and The New York Times are still at odds over an article in early November that suggested that the family of Premier Wen Jiabao had accumulated massive wealth. Ping An Insurance yesterday said that it is considering taking legal action for another report published on Saturday, about its president asking Wen to avoid financial losses.

The New York Times, in a follow-up article, said that in 1999 Ping An chairman Ma Mingzhe wrote to Wen and later met his wife at a time when the authorities were envisaging new rules that could have led to Ping An's break-up.

Following this personal appeal, the government accepted the company's request for a waiver, which enabled Ping An to become China's second largest life insurance company and sell shares.

According to The New York Times, people close to Wen Jiabao bought shares in the company before others could at a quarter of the value. The article also said that the value of investment by the premier's group peaked at US$ 2.2 billion in 2007.

In a statement, Ping An said recent media coverage related to the company contained "serious inaccuracies, facts being distorted and taken out of context as well as flawed logic." The company would therefore take "appropriate legal action commensurate with the damage and adverse impact the media reports have caused to the company".

Whatever the case, the retiring Wen Jiabao is the greatest loser. In March, he is expected to be replaced by Li Keqiang. Until now, his political career had been centred on the idea that he came from a poor background and had remained loyal to his roots.

The New York Times' attacks show instead that he, like other leaders, did his best to increase his personal fortune and that of his family.


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