Several Chinese businesswomen reportedly linked to the investigation into disgraced former Politburo member Sun Zhengcai have been detained, according to sources and media reports.
Duan Weihong, a 49-year-old Tianjin native, was in custody and had been uncontactable “for a considerable period”, sources said.
Liu Fengzhou, a 55-year-old Beijing businesswoman and art collector, was detained in May, and Huang Suzhi, from Jiangsu, had been held since April, according to Chinese news outlet Caixin.
Tianjin prosecutors charged Sun, once seen as a contender for the innermost Politburo Standing Committee, with bribery on Tuesday, following his fall from grace in July ahead of the Communist Party’s five-yearly top reshuffle in October.
Duan, also know as Whitney Duan, was one of the central figures in a 2012 investigation by The New York Times surrounding the wealth of the relatives of then premier Wen Jiabao, whose family members rejected the report. The US newspaper first reported Duan’s detention last week.
Duan’s businesses ranged from hotel and asset management to property development and equity investment.
The Times cited a person close to Duan as saying that the businesswoman’s detention might have been part of an investigation into Sun.
While her connection with Sun was unclear, the report said Duan and her former husband ran a company with a development project in Shunyi district, home to Beijing’s international airport. Sun had been chief of the district.
In its cover story last week, Caixin magazine reported how former civil servant Liu started her business in Shunyi and expanded it in roughly parallel with Sun’s later career path in Beijing, Jilin and Chongqing.
The report claimed that former Chongqing official Mu Huaping went to great lengths to help Liu and Huang in their business ventures as soon as he learned that Sun had been named the municipality’s top party official in November, 2012.
Caixin reported in September that Mu had encouraged two Chongqing state-owned enterprises to invest 800 million yuan (US$126.6 million) in late 2016 in a Hong Kong-listed Chongqing financial technology firm controlled by Huang.
Sun visited Huang’s firm twice – once in 2014 and again in 2016 – in a public show of support, the report added.
Mu, who rose from a city department head to district party boss and then vice-mayor during Sun’s tenure in Chongqing, was eventually placed under investigation by anti-graft investigators. He was demoted in October for violations of party discipline.