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Sources Report PetroChina Corruption Probe Expands

  • Reuters

FILE - Jiang Jiemin, president of PetroChina Ltd, speaks during an announcement of the company's results in Hong Kong Wednesday, Mar. 19, 2008.

FILE - Jiang Jiemin, president of PetroChina Ltd, speaks during an announcement of the company's results in Hong Kong Wednesday, Mar. 19, 2008.

The Chinese government has questioned two more executives from China National Petroleum Company (CNPC) as part of a wider graft investigation into the state energy giant, according to two people with direct knowledge of the matter.

CNPC and its listed unit, PetroChina, are at the center of one of the biggest corruption investigations into the Chinese state sector in years.

Wen Qingshan, CNPC's chief accountant, and Wang Lihua, head of PetroChina's oil trading vehicle Chinaoil, were taken away by authorities last week, said the people, who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to talk to the media. Wang is also CNPC's deputy chief economist.

It was not immediately clear whether the two officials were targets of investigation or assisting in the broader probe.

Two officials at Chinaoil - Zheng Jun, head of crude oil trading, and a company lawyer who only gave his surname as Chen - said the report on Wang was “totally incorrect”.

“Such a thing… has never happened to president Wang,” said Zheng. “She is still handling daily management work.”

Efforts to contact Wang and Wen were unsuccessful. Calls to CNPC media officials were not answered, and PetroChina spokesperson Mao Zefeng declined to comment.

Beijing stunned the Chinese energy industry in August and September with announcements that five former top executives at PetroChina and CNPC were being investigated for “serious discipline violations” - shorthand generally used to describe graft.

They included Jiang Jiemin, former chairman of both entities.

Authorities have given no further details on what these officials may have done wrong, but the investigations suggest President Xi Jinping wants to tackle graft in an industry that ranks as one of the most powerful corners of the state-owned corporate sector.

CNPC chief accountant Wen, 54, was also appointed chairman of listed Kunlun Energy in August, replacing Li Hualin, who the company said was being investigated by authorities. Kunlun Energy shares were suspended early on Tuesday. A PetroChina official said the company may issue a statement later on Tuesday.

Wang, one of the few top female executives at the state giant, has been chief of Chinaoil since 1998. The company has expanded rapidly over the years to become an influential global player in oil markets.
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