The disgraced head of China’s erstwhile insurance regulator has pled guilty to accepting bribes, becoming the highest-ranking official to be felled by Beijing’s crackdown on finance sector corruption.
Xiang Junbo, former chief of the now defunct China Insurance Regulatory Commission, pled guilty to accepting bribes on Thursday at a court in eastern Jiangsu province according to reports from state-owned media.
The 61-year old stood accused of accepting bribes worth a total of 19.4 million yuan (approx. USD$3 million) in order to help both individuals and organisations to obtain contracts, loans, approvals or promotions.
Prosecutors said that Xiang’s abuses first began when he held senior positions at the Agricultural Bank of China and the Chinese central bank.
According to prosecutors Xiang accepted the bribes both directly as well as via an associate named Yang Guang, who is being tried separately and is reportedly Xiang Junbo’s wife.
Xiang was ousted as head of CIRC in April 2017 and placed under criminal investigation amidst a crackdown on China’s finance sector.
He spent six years as head of the insurance regulator following his appointment in 2011, during which period China’s insurance sector almost tripled in value, transforming key firms into financial behemoths.
CIRC helped fuel this growth by allowing insurers to raise short-term funds via the sale of “universal insurance products,” as well as obtain equity stakes in listed concerns and real estate projects.
Anbang Insurance, Group, which was founded in 2011 in the wake of a corporate restructuring, saw surging growth during Xiang’s tenure as chief regulator for the sector, with its assets eventually reaching around 2 trillion yuan .
Anbang founder and ex-chairman Wu Xiaohui was sentenced in May to an 18 years prison sentence for fraud and embezzlement involving a total sum of USD$12 billion.