Panama Papers implicate relatives of Xi, other top China leaders

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The Panama Papers have impacted officials at the top of China’s hierarchy which has spent the past year purging top rivals of President Xi Jinping on charges of corruption.

At least three of the seven people on the Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee, the Chinese Communist Party’s most powerful committee, including Xi himself, have relatives who have controlled secretive offshore companies, according to April 6 reports on details from the leaked documents.

China’s new Politburo Standing Committee members (from L to R) Zhang Gaoli, Liu Yunshan, Zhang Dejiang, Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, Yu Zhengsheng and Wang Qishan. /Reuters
China’s Politburo Standing Committee members, from left, Zhang Gaoli, Liu Yunshan, Zhang Dejiang, Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, Yu Zhengsheng and Wang Qishan. /Reuters

Government censors in Beijing moved swiftly to purge Chinese media of any mention of the Panama Papers, which were disclosed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

The leaked documents are especially embarrassing for China amid Xi’s pledge to eradicate corruption within the Communist Party’s ranks.

The reports on April 6 found that the daughter-in-law of Liu Yunshan, China’s propaganda chief, was once a shareholder and director of a company registered in the British Virgin Islands, and the son-in-law of Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli was a shareholder in three companies domiciled in the British tax haven.

Xi’s brother-in-law, Deng Jiagui, was also tied to offshore companies.

It is not illegal for Chinese citizens to own companies offshore and thousands of Chinese nationals have set up companies in offshore havens such as the British Virgin Islands and the Seychelles.

The documents came from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which specializes in creating tax shelters and secretive corporations for wealthy clients.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the publication of the Panama Papers was an attempt by the United States to destabilize Russia.

Reports on the documents constitute “one more attempt to destabilize the internal situation [and] make us more accommodating,” Putin said.

“You journalists all know what an information product is. So they went through this offshore [material]. Your humble servant was not there, but they don’t talk about that. But there’s still a job to be done. So what did they do? They make an information product – they found acquaintances and friends.”

According to the Panama Papers, Putin’s associates used a variety of offshore structures to move vast sums of money around the world.

Putin said his longtime friend, cellist Sergei Roldugin, who is linked in the papers to $2 billion in offshore transactions, had done nothing wrong, claiming Roldugin spent his personal money to advance cultural projects in Russia.

Putin said: “WikiLeaks has showed us that official people and official organs of the U.S. are behind this.”

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