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Graft probe sees CEO stand down

Updated: 2014-09-22 08:25
By The Straits Times (China Daily)

Scandal hits joint Sino-Singaporean Suzhou Industrial Park venture

Suzhou Industrial Park former CEO Bai Guizhi has been investigated for graft in the most serious scandal to hit the first Sino-Singaporean bilateral project.

The Sunday Times newspaper of Singapore said that Suzhou's disciplinary commission launched investigations into Bai on Sept 13 for "serious disciplinary violations" - a term that's usually a reference to corruption. It published the story on Friday.

Sources said Bai, 59, resigned as CEO of the Suzhou Industrial Park joint venture firm, China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park Development Group, days after he was investigated.

He had been appointed to the position less than three months ago.

Chinese media reported on Saturday that Bai was likely implicated in his previous work in Jiangsu province, which has seen a recent spate of officials sacked in graft investigations.

"We don't think the investigations centered on his work in the development group, as he has worked here only for a short time," said a source who declined to be identified.

Bai's predecessor, Zhao Zhisong, the group's chairman, has taken over as acting CEO. The firm has run the government-to-government project since it was launched in 1994.

Shenzhen University Sino-Singapore expert Lyu Yuanli said he believes that Bai's dismissal will have little effect on bilateral cooperation and the commemorative activities for the industrial park's 20th anniversary, alongside a high-level meeting that will be chaired by Singaporean Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli.

"Bai's sacking is not an isolated case that took place only in the Suzhou Industrial Park, but part of a new normal in China where officials of all ranks and backgrounds are being investigated, mostly for misdeeds in the past," Lyu said.

The case highlights the need for both sides to step up safeguards and conduct better due diligence on officials considered for key appointments, he said.

The industrial park's administrative committee, an arm of the Suzhou city government overseeing the project, is believed to be responsible for Bai's appointment and that of other key posts in the industrial park.

The development group's chief executives were Singaporeans from 1994 to 2000, when a Singapore consortium held a majority 65 percent stake in Suzhou Industrial Park.

From Jan 1, 2001, Chinese citizens were appointed CEOs after a money-losing streak in the industrial park saw Singapore reduce its stake to 35 percent and its share of the park to just 8 sq km instead of the 70 sq km it had planned.

The situation at Suzhou Industrial Park has since improved. It has become one of China's most successful industrial parks, and garnered international awards.

A Singapore consortium now holds a 28 percent stake.


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