The family of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, which he had once described as “poor,” accumulated massive wealth during his time in power, the New York Times reported Friday.
Wen’s family members, including his 90-year-old mother Yang Zhiyun, his son, daughter, younger brother and brother-in-law have become “extraordinarily wealthy” during his leadership since 1998 when he was named vice premier, the newspaper said in an investigative report published on both its English and Chinese language websites. The sites were instantly blocked in China by the government.
"A review of corporate and regulatory records indicates that the prime minister's relatives, some of whom have a knack for aggressive deal-making, including his wife, have controlled assets worth at least $2.7 billion,” the report said.
“In many cases, the names of the relatives have been hidden behind layers of partnerships and investment vehicles involving friends, work colleagues and business partners,” it said.
Wen’s widowed mother Yang, who used to be a schoolteacher in northern China, has allegedly become “outright rich, at least on paper” that an investment in her name in a large Chinese financial services firm, had a value of $120 million five years ago.
The Times said Chinese Foreign Ministry turned down requests for a response when presented with the findings of the premier’s family amassing massive wealth.
Wen was promoted to premiership in 2003 and was charged with overseeing the country’s economic reforms.
Wen Jiabao's wife Zhang Beili, who rarely makes public appearances with her husband, is one of the most influential figures of China’s diamond and precious stones industry. Zhang, who became known as China’s “diamond queen,” played a key role in the founding of the National Gemstone Testing Center in Beijing, and the Shanghai Diamond Exchange, two of the industry’s most powerful institutions.
The U.S. State Department cables released by WikiLeaks had earlier suggested that Wen once considered divorcing Zhang, as he was “disgusted” by how she had used his name to extract huge commissions in trade deals.
Wen's family's assets include a villa development project in Beijing, a tire factory in northern China, a company involved in building some of the venues for Beijing's 2008 Olympics including the "Bird's Nest" main stadium, and Ping An Insurance, one of the world's largest financial services companies, the Times said.
His younger brother owns a company that was awarded more than $30 million in government contracts and subsidies to handle wastewater treatment and medical waste disposal for some of China’s biggest cities, according to estimates based on government records.
The former geologist, who was once regarded as reticent and uncharismatic, Wen has often spoken against corruption within the government machinery.
In an article authored by Wen titled “Let Power Be Exercised Under Sunshine,” published in April by Qiushi Journal, one of country's major Communist Party mouthpieces, said corruption and abuse of power can only be contained through wide and effective supervision and stricter administration.
The damning report that coincided with disgraced politician Bo Xilai’s expulsion from the top legislature has come ahead of Communist Party of China national congress Nov. 8 where the party will introduce new leaders for the first time in a decade.