However, the ICIJ files reveal the role of the BVI’s offshore secrecy in obscuring Lily Chang’s links with her consulting firm, Fullmark Consultants.
The company was set up in the BVI by her husband, Liu Chunhang (劉春航), in 2004, and he remained as sole director and shareholder until 2006, when he took a job in China’s banking regulation agency.
Nominal ownership of the firm was transferred at that time to Zhang Yuhong (劉春航), a Wen family friend, who the New York Times reported had connections with the Wen family’s business interests.
The company established for Wen Jiabao’s only son, Wen Yunsong (溫雲松), with the aid of Credit Suisse, was dissolved in 2008, with little hint as to its purpose or activities in the two years it was operational. One purpose for such firms is to allow for the establishment of bank accounts in the firm’s name, a legal measure that nonetheless makes tracing of assets a more complicated task.
No members of the Wen family, or Zhang, responded to approaches for comment made by ICIJ reporters.
However, in a letter dated Dec. 27 last year apparently sent to Hong Kong columnist Ng Hong-mun (吳康民) amid public anti-corruption inquiries into other former officials, Wen Jiabao is reported to have denied any wrongdoing during his premiership, or in how his family obtained their reported wealth (“China’s Wen pleads his innocence over hidden riches claim”, Jan. 20, page 1).
“I have never been involved and would not get involved in one single deal of abusing my power for personal gain because no such gains whatsoever could shake my convictions,” he is reported to have written.
A spokesman for Credit Suisse refused to comment on specific cases or clients, but said it had “detailed procedures for dealing with politically exposed persons,” which comply with money laundering regulations in Switzerland and elsewhere.
“Credit Suisse is required by Swiss law to uphold bank client confidentiality and is therefore unable to comment on this matter,” he said. “In the absence of any further information, the media cannot be certain that they have a full understanding of the matter. As a result, they will not be able to portray it accurately or objectively.”
The ICIJ records also detail a firm connected to Deng Jiagui (鄧家貴), the husband of the elder sister of President Xi, who has cultivated a public image as an anti-corruption campaigner. According to the BVI records, Deng, a real-estate developer and investor, owns a 50 percent stake in the BVI-incorporated Excellence Effort Property Development. Ownership of the remainder of the company traces back to two Chinese property tycoons, who last year won a US$2 billion real-estate bid.
Other “princelings” with offshore ties include: Li Xiaolin (李小琳), a senior executive in one of China’s state-owned power firms and the daughter of the former premier Li Peng (李鵬); Wu Jianchang (吳建常), the son-in-law of former “paramount leader” Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平); and Hu Yishi (胡翼時), a cousin of the former president Hu Jintao (胡錦濤).
China’s political elite were not the only individuals taking advantage of the BVI’s offshore anonymity. At least 16 of China’s richest people, with a combined estimated net worth in excess of US$45 billion, were found to have connections with companies based in the jurisdiction.