Wen family’s hidden billions

International

DAVID BARBOZA

The mother of China's premier was a schoolteacher. His father was ordered to tend pigs in one of Mao's political campaigns. During childhood, "my family was extremely poor," the prime minister, Wen Jiabao, said in a speech last year.

Now, the premier's mother, Yang Zhiyun, 90, is very rich. Just one investment in her name, in a large Chinese financial services company, had a value of $120 million five years ago, corporate and regulatory records show.

Yang got rich after her son was elevated to China's ruling elite, first in 1998 as vice prime minister and then, five years later, as prime minister.

Relatives of Wen, including his son, daughter, younger brother and brother-in-law, have become extraordinarily wealthy during his leadership, an investigation by The New York Times shows. A review of corporate and regulatory records indicates that the relatives and Wen's wife together control assets worth at least $ 2.7 billion.

The family's ventures sometimes received financial backing from state-owned companies, including China Mobile, one of China's biggest phone operators, the documents show. At other times, the ventures won support from some of Asia's richest tycoons. Wen's relatives accumulated shares in banks, jewellers, tourist resorts, telecom companies and infrastructure projects, sometimes by using offshore entities.

The holdings include a villa development project in Beijing, a tyre factory in northern China, a company that helped build some of Beijing's Olympic stadiums, including the well-known Bird's Nest, and Ping An Insurance, one of the world's biggest financial services companies.

As premier in an economy that is heavily state-driven, Wen has broad authority over the major industries where his relatives have made their fortunes. Chinese companies cannot list their shares on a stock exchange without approval from agencies overseen by Wen. He also has the power to influence investments in strategic sectors like energy and telecom.

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