Asia

Daughter of ex-China premier held millions in secret Swiss bank account

March 4, 2011: Li Xiaolin, chairwoman of the state-owned electricity giant China Power International Development Ltd., attends the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in Beijing. Li, daughter of former Chinese Premier Li Peng, held as much as $2.48 million in a secret HSBC account in Switzerland, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has found. (AP Photo)

March 4, 2011: Li Xiaolin, chairwoman of the state-owned electricity giant China Power International Development Ltd., attends the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in Beijing. Li, daughter of former Chinese Premier Li Peng, held as much as $2.48 million in a secret HSBC account in Switzerland, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has found. (AP Photo)

Li Xiaolin, daughter of a former Chinese premier known for his support of the bloody military crackdown on the 1989 democracy movement, held as much as $2.48 million in a secret HSBC account in Switzerland, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has found.

The revelation, gleaned from a cache of leaked files that have been dubbed "Swiss Leaks," adds to the list of families of Chinese senior politicians who amassed huge wealth in the past couple of decades and stashed some of it in overseas accounts that can help them avoid detection by authorities back home.

Li did not respond to requests by the ICIJ for comments. People who answered phones Tuesday at a state-owned utility where she is chairman declined to forward calls to her or give information about how to reach her.

Despite the Chinese Communist Party's roots in socialism, party officials have leveraged their power to place family and friends in key positions of major industries such as energy, communications and banking, providing tremendous payoffs in what critics say comes at the expense of improving lives of the working masses.

In 2012, Bloomberg reported that the relatives of Chinese President Xi Jinping held investments in companies with total assets of $376 million, an 18 percent indirect stake in a rare-earths company with $1.73 billion in assets, and a $20.2 million holding in a publicly traded technology company, although no assets were traced to Xi himself, his wife or their daughter.

Also in 2012, The New York Times reported that relatives of former Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao had controlled assets worth at least $2.7 billion.

Last year, the ICIJ found through leaked documents that children of Chinese senior officials, known as the princelings or the Red Aristocracy, had stashed away wealth in offshore companies and accounts. Among them, Li Xiaolin was the director of two British Virgin Islands companies registered in 2005, according to the ICIJ.

The ruling party's own anti-corruption campaign launched by Xi after he took control of the party in late 2012 has uncovered numerous cases involving millions of dollars by party officials, their family members and associates. Allegedly corrupt cadres have been charged with taking bribes as well as using their positions to seek huge benefits for others.

Li Xiaolin, the only daughter of Li Peng, China's premier between 1987 and 1998, is the chairwoman of the state-owned electricity giant China Power International Development Ltd. She is widely known among the Chinese public by the nickname "Power Queen."

She has asserted that her family background has had no bearing on her success.

Li had a reputation for expensive tastes in luxury clothes, though she has switched to more modest attire and has even been seen using a reusable shopping bag since Xi took office.

In 2013, The Telegraph reported that Li brokered secret deals to help Zurich Insurance gain a major stake in the private insurer New China Life, before foreign investment in the insurance sector was allowed in China. Li denied the allegation, saying she had had no personal relationship with any insurance company.

On Monday, the ICIJ said Li and her husband were beneficial owners of a client account linked to five bank accounts that held as much as $2.48 million in 2006 and 2007. The accounts were held under the name of Metralco Overseas S.A., a Panama-registered company that was dissolved in 2012, the ICIJ said.