China Detains Chairman of Anbang, Which Sought Ties With Jared Kushner

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(Agencies) The chairman of a Chinese financial conglomerate who tried to forge a business relationship with President Trump’s son-in-law has been detained by police.
Wu Xiaohui, the chairman of Anbang Insurance Group, was taken away on Friday in Beijing, according to Caijing, a respected newsmagazine. In a statement early Wednesday morning in China, the company said that Mr. Wu was “for personal reasons no longer able to perform his duties.”
Two people briefed on the matter — a company executive and a business partner of Anbang — confirmed that Mr. Wu had been detained.
Mr. Wu, who piloted Anbang’s rapid rise to global prominence with splashy purchases like the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Manhattan, is the latest Chinese tycoon to be ensnared in an anti-corruption drive that has swept the country in recent years. Another of China’s wealthiest and most politically connected financiers, Xiao Jianhua, was reportedly seized from his luxury hotel in Hong Kong by Chinese police officers and taken over the border in January. He has not been seen publicly since. Anbang, which claims to have almost $300 billion in assets, had recently been on a worldwide buying spree, and Mr. Wu counted Wall Street executives like Stephen A. Schwarzman as among his business partners in the United States.
The Caijing article said Mr. Wu was detained as part of a Chinese government investigation into Anbang. The two people who confirmed that Mr. Wu had been detained asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the news media.
Anbang is also a major issuer of speculative wealth management products, which have attracted a tidal wave of money from Chinese investors. Mr. Wu’s detention follows a move last month by China’s insurance regulator to bar the company from offering new insurance products for three months as part of a wider clampdown. The regulator said at the time that it was taking disciplinary measures against the company over the improper sale of insurance products. It was not clear on Tuesday what would happen to Mr. Wu. Some executives caught up in the government’s crackdown on corruption in the financial sector, which began last year, have vanished for a few days only to reappear, back in charge of their companies. Others, like Mr. Xiao, have been held for months in undisclosed locations without any charges being publicized. Xu Ming, a billionaire caught up in a 2012 political scandal, vanished and died in prison in late 2015 at 44, according to a report in one Chinese government-owned newspaper in Hong Kong. Sterling political connections on both sides of the Pacific Ocean might have worked to Mr. Wu’s advantage in his business dealings. He married a granddaughter of Deng Xiaoping, China’s paramount leader in the 1980s and in November met with Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and a top adviser, in a bid to buy a stake in a Manhattan office building partly owned by Mr. Kushner’s family company. The deal was eventually abandoned after media coverage that highlighted a perceived conflict of interest. Mr. Kushner’s purview at the White House includes relations with China. Anbang has taken the money it raised from Chinese savers and invested much of it abroad. Last year, Anbang spent more than $6 billion for a collection of luxury hotels across the United States. The seller of those hotels was the Blackstone Group, whose chairman and chief executive, Mr. Schwarzman, is one of Mr. Trump’s closest business advisers.In a separate effort, Anbang offered more than $13 billion for Starwood Hotels and Resorts before abandoning its bid early last year after media scrutiny of its opaque ownership structure. China’s insurance sector has been in turmoil in recent months. In April, anti-corruption investigators announced that they were focusing on the insurance sector and specifically, the country’s top insurance regulator. Xiang Junbo, the chairman of China Insurance Regulatory Commission, was later removed from office after the government placed him under investigation for “severe violations of discipline.” Mr. Wu’s detention comes at a politically sensitive time in China. The ruling Communist Party is set to convene a leadership meeting this year that will pick a new generation of top officials, and the party puts the preservation of stability — both financial and political — at a premium in the months ahead of the conclave, held once every five years.