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Senior official with China’s new financial regulator targeted in corruption probe just a week into the job

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A senior official from China’s new financial regulatory body has been detained by the country’s top anti-corruption watchdog, according to official announcements.

The Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) said on Tuesday that Ren Chunsheng, leader of the preparatory team for the Complaint Mediation Centre of the National Financial Regulatory Administration (NFRA), was under investigation because he was “suspected of serious violations of discipline and law” – a euphemism for corruption.

Ren, 55, appears to have joined the administration earlier this month, serving at the agency for about a week before his detention. He is the first senior official at the new financial regulator to be targeted in an anti-corruption investigation.

The NFRA was established in March of last year as part of a major overhaul of Communist Party and state organs.

As part of that overhaul, Beijing established a powerful Central Financial Commission, led by Premier Li Qiang, to decide the general direction of financial regulation. The NFRA was founded to serve as the execution and enforcement arm of the commission’s decisions.

The NFRA’s Complaint Mediation Centre will be a key mechanism to coordinate the handling of consumer and market complaints about financial institutions’ products and unfair practices and to deal with actions that infringe on consumers’ rights and interests.

Ren stepped down as the party secretary and chairman of the Shanghai Insurance Exchange (SHIE) in late April, a position he had held since July 2021.

One Shanghai official who knew Ren said friends had not been able to reach him since his departure from SHIE.

SHIE, an insurance service platform launched in June 2016, raised 2.24 billion yuan (US$310 million) in capital and aimed to become the main exchange for Chinese and overseas insurance companies to register and trade their insurance and reinsurance products.

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Before his stint at SHIE, Ren was the party secretary and chairman of China Insurance Investment Co, Ltd, a position he assumed in February 2019.

Ren has spent most of his career in top Chinese financial regulatory authorities. Before his appointment to China Insurance Investment group in 2019, he was the director of the Insurance Fund Supervision Department of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, which was abolished and replaced by the NFRA during the overhaul last year.

While there, he was mainly responsible for monitoring insurance fund risk and providing early warnings. His team carried out on-site and off-site inspections of insurance company investments.

China’s anti-corruption authority has set its sights on China’s financial system in recent years. In the first four months of 2024, more than 20 senior financial officers were detained by the CCDI, according to a tally on the disciplinary watchdog’s website.

The highest ranking financial official caught so far this year has been Li Jiping, 69, former vice-president of China Development Bank. The CCDI announced his detention on March 13, more than eight years after he retired.

The tally also shows that in 2023, the CCDI announced the detention of more than 100 cadres in China’s banking, insurance, securities and other finance-related fields. Nearly 70 per cent of the financial officials investigated were from state banks, with “using bank loans for personal gains” the most common accusation against them.

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