Sat, Apr 07, 2012 - Page 5 News List

China detains Bo-linked tycoon

SCANT DETAILS:The soccer club owner was seized on the same day Bo Xilai was sacked and is reportedly being probed about a 2009 land deal and match-fixing

AFP and AP, SHANGHAI and Beijing

A Chinese tycoon with reported links to ousted leader Bo Xilai (薄熙來) is being investigated over a land deal and alleged soccer match-fixing, a state-backed newspaper said yesterday.

Xu Ming (徐明), a soccer-club owner and one of China’s richest men, was reportedly detained on March 15 — the same day rising political star Bo was sacked as Chinese Communist Party (CCP) head of the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing.

Few details have emerged about the reasons for his detention, but the 21st Century Business Herald said the probe into Xu focused on a 2009 land purchase in the northeastern city of Harbin, involving him and a Chongqing company.

The report said the transaction involved “insider dealing,” but did not provide details. It said authorities were also probing Xu in a broader crackdown on corruption in soccer, quoting sources.

China has arrested dozens of people in relation to soccer match-fixing and gambling in a scandal exposed two years ago. In February, a court sentenced two top former Chinese Football Association officials to more than a decade each in jail.

Xu’s business, the Shide Group, and soccer club are based in the northeastern city of Dalian, where Bo served as mayor and CCP head over a decade ago, before rising up the political ranks.

Hong Kong newspapers have reported that the two men were friends and that Xu helped fund the education of Bo’s son Bo Guagua (薄瓜瓜), who attended Oxford University and the elite British school Harrow.

Bo Xilai had been expected to join the country’s most powerful decisionmaking body during a key leadership transition later this year.

During his time as Chongqing party head, he led a high-profile anti-graft campaign that riveted China and drew praise, but also fierce criticism for ignoring the law.

The Shide Group could not be reached for comment yesterday and the private company has yet to make a public statement about its missing chairman.

Meanwhile, the founder of a leading pro-Maoist Web site says Chinese authorities have ordered the site shut down for one month because of critical essays that were posted on it.

The move comes amid China’s worst high-level political crisis in years, in which Bo Xilai, who promoted Mao Zedong (毛澤東)-era songs and stories, was fired.

Han Deqiang (韓德強), founder of the leftist Web site Utopia, said yesterday that local police officials told the site’s manager to shut it down because of content that criticized the CCP, its leaders and the upcoming party congress.

Han is a vocal supporter of Bo Xilai. Politically minded Chinese saw the removal of Bo Xilai as a sign of divisive infighting.

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