Two more Chinese political leaders were found to have links to offshore firms, according to reports on the documents leaked from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.
Zhang Gaoli and Liu Yunshan, two members of China’s Politburo Standing Committee — the Communist Party’s highest decision making body — have relatives who are listed as directors or shareholders in firms located in the known tax haven country, according to the BBC.
The leaked 11.5 million papers were obtained securely from an anonymous source over a year ago by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. The data were shared with The International Consortium of Investigative Journalism (ICIJ), which enlisted help from other media outlets. More than 370 journalists from over 100 news organisations in 76 countries collaborated on the project over several months, with the first stories from the data dump emerging on Monday.
At the time of publishing, documents relating to Zhang and Liu had not been released by the ICIJ or the BBC.
When the first stories came out, four current or former Chinese leaders were found to have links to offshore firms, including president Xi Jinping, former premier Li Peng, Jia Qinglin – all current or former Politburo Standing Committee members – and now imprisoned former Chongqing city Party chief Bo Xilai.
Deng Jiagui, Xi’s brother-in-law, owns two offshore companies registered by WBC Secretaries Limited, which is based in Hong Kong. WBC’s four partners include Charles Chow Chan-lum, a Hong Kong accountant who was a member of Guangdong Province’s political consultative body, and Ricky Wong Wai-pui, another Hong Kong accountant known to have a pro-Beijing stance, according to Next Magazine.
Deng also registered an address in Lockhart House in Wan Chai, but no one answered when an Apple Daily reporter visited the flat. A security guard told the reporter it was occupied by a family of three. According to the government’s Land Registry, the flat is owned by a Wong Wai-ming, who bought it for HK$278,000 in 1979.
A copy of the Hong Kong passport of Li Xiaolin, Li Peng’s daughter, was found in the leaked documents as it was used to prove her identity.
Both Deng and Li had been previously named in another major investigation coordinated by the ICIJ and published in January 2014, on “secretive offshore companies in tax havens that helped shroud the Communist elite’s wealth”.
Hong Kong Chinese-language newspaper Ming Pao was involved in the investigation. The newspaper’s then editor-in-chief Kevin Lau Chun-to was stabbed by two assailants in February 2014, raising questions whether the attack was related to the investigation.
The assailants admitted receiving HK$100,000 each to attack Lau, but refused to say who paid them. They were jailed for 19 years last August.
Previously reports have said at least eight current or former members of the Politburo Standing Committee have been implicated.
It is not illegal for Chinese citizens to open offshore companies, but the Communist Party’s constitution bans party officials and family members from profiting from their positions.
The ICIJ’s reports did not entirely find out the usage of the offshore companies, only listing documents and addresses showing ties to the people involved, and noting that there are legitimate uses for offshore companies.
However, the stories have already led to restrictions when searching the terms Panama or Panama Papers on China’s search engine or social media.
Searching the term Panama Papers on Baidu using traditional Chinese characters would give results linking to Russian president Vladimir Putin’s ties to offshore companies and French investigative authorities using the leaked papers, but no articles on the revelations on Chinese leaders.
Searching the same term in simplified Chinese characters on Baidu gave no results. The site gives a notice: “The search results are not shown as they may not be in accordance with relevant laws, regulations and policies. [We] suggest trying other related words.”
On Weibo, searching the term Panama Papers also gives only results on foreign politicians who were named in the leaks.
Searches for Panama and Deng Jiagui, Panama and Li Xiaolin, or other search entries in Chinese with names in the leaks related to the Chinese leaders were blocked.
One successful entry was searching Panama and Xi Jinping in Chinese, which would give results of the Chinese president being invited to Panama for the opening of the newly expanded canal in June.
It is also fruitless to search for Panama in English on Weibo.