Sat, Aug 08, 2009 - Page 5 News List

China’s nuclear chief in US$260m bribery probe

AFP , BEIJING

China’s top nuclear power official is being investigated for allegedly squandering public funds and accepting bribes valued at up to 1.8 billion yuan (US$260 million), state press said yesterday.

Authorities are probing the possibility that Kang Rixin (康日新) took bribes from French nuclear power giant Areva to win a contract for a nuclear power project in southern China’s Guangdong Province, the Chongqing Times reported.

Kang also allegedly traded large amounts of public funds earmarked for the construction of three nuclear power plants in the stock market, suffering huge losses when the market crashed last year, it said.

“Recently, the state has greatly expanded the scope of developing nuclear power, a lot of major projects are being started that involve huge investment,” the paper said, citing unnamed sources close to the case.

“This is where corruption may have occurred,” it said.

The report did not detail how much of the 1.8 billion yuan was lost in the illegal stock transactions or how much was linked to the alleged bribery.

Kang, party secretary and general manager of state-owned China National Nuclear Corporation, was being probed for possible involvement in “grave violations of discipline,” Xinhua news agency said last week when announcing the investigation.

The term “discipline violations” often means acts of corruption in the language of Chinese authorities. Officials at the China National Nuclear Corporation refused comment on the case when contacted by Agence France-Presses.

However, the Chongqing Times report yesterday was posted on numerous government Web sites, including that of the People’s Daily, indicating a factual and official basis to the story.

In November 2007, Areva announced an agreement to supply China with two third-generation nuclear reactors in a deal worth 8 billion euros (US$11.9 billion at the time).

Weeks later it was revealed that Areva’s then marketing director Paul Felten had been detained and held by police in China for nearly two months for questioning in an alleged corruption case linked to the China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corp, reports then said.

Yesteday’s report said Kang and several officials of the Guangdong Corp were under investigation for irregularities in the tendering process of the power plant.

Areva China did not immediately comment when approached yesterday about the report in the Chinese newspaper.

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