Sinopec No. 2 Caught in Graft Probe as China Crackdown Widens

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Wang Tianpu
Wang Tianpu, former President and General Manager of China Petrochemical Corp. Photographer: Jerome Favre/Bloomberg

China Petrochemical Corp. has had another executive swept up in what seems to be a relentless and widening array of corruption investigations at state-owned enterprises ordered by President Xi Jinping.

General Manager Wang Tianpu, the No. 2 official at Asia’s largest oil refiner, is suspected of violating state law and Communist Party discipline, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, the country’s top anti-graft agency, said in a statement Monday.

The company, known as Sinopec Group, “totally supports” the government’s decision and will focus on maintaining the stability of business operations, it said on its official Weibo microblog account.

“Nothing will change within the company,” Chairman Fu Chengyu said in an interview in Beijing on Tuesday. “We support the government’s long-term anti-corruption effort, not just cracking down on illegal acts but disciplinary wrongdoings as well.”

Wang is the highest-ranking Sinopec official to face investigation since Xi began his nationwide crackdown in 2012.

“The event demonstrates again the Chinese regulator’s strong intent to probe any ‘disciplinary violations’ by SOE management members, and the ultimate resolution of the investigations is expected to improve the visibility of overall business practices,” HSBC Securities Asia Ltd.’s Hong Kong-based analysts Thomas Hilboldt, Si Tingting and Zhang Hanyu wrote in a research note.

Wang on Monday resigned as vice chairman and non-executive director at the company’s publicly traded unit, China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., according to a Hong Kong stock exchange filing.

Sinopec dropped as much as 5 percent to HK$7.25. The shares traded 4.7 percent lower at HK$7.27 as of the noon trading break in Hong Kong, compared with a 0.1 percent decline in the city’s benchmark Hang Seng Index.

Graft Targets

China has identified 26 state-owned enterprises as targets for graft inspections this year, after similar probes in 2014.

The nation’s biggest energy company, China National Petroleum Corp., and its listed arm, PetroChina Co., have lost more than a dozen senior officials to CCDI investigations.

The anti-graft agency doesn’t have formal power to arrest or press charges, but in practice is able to detain indefinitely and investigate any of China’s roughly 87 million Communist Party members.

That effectively includes every government official or executive at the state-owned enterprises that dominate China’s economy in finance, energy, transportation and other industries.

PetroChina; China National Offshore Oil Corp., the country’s biggest offshore oil and gas explorer; and State Grid Corp. of China were all on the list for investigations this year, according to a statement released in February.

Fallen Executives

Wang, a engineer with a doctorate, was made general manager in August 2011, according to the company’s website. As recently as April 16, he hosted South Korean oil officials at the company’s Beijing headquarters, according to a post on Sinopec’s website.

In previous investigations, Sinopec Group removed Xue Wandong, vice chairman and general manager of Sinopec Oilfield Services Corp. in December. That was within weeks of a CCDI team’s arrival at the company.

The company later confirmed the investigation of Xue and his removal on its official microblog on Dec. 3, following a report by the official Xinhua News Agency.

Corruption cases against Zhou Yongkang and Jiang Jiemin -- both former chairmen at China National Petroleum Corp. who rose to powerful positions in the Chinese government -- are among the biggest of Xi’s campaign.

Jiang, who most recently led the country’s state-owned assets overseer, pleaded guilty to accepting bribes and abuse of power at a one-day trial earlier this month.

The trial was one of several being held in the run-up to proceedings against Zhou, who, as a retired member of the party’s powerful Politburo Standing Committee, is the country’s highest-ranking official accused of corruption.

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