‘Panama Papers’ leak names Chinese officials, gov’t quickly blocks web access

English language news reports are available -- so far.

English language news reports are available — so far.

JISHOU, HUNAN — Family members of Chinese party officials — including President Xi Jinping — are among the very rich named in a massive exposé of secretive offshore financial accounts, but Chinese citizens will probably never hear about it.

Within hours of the “Panama Papers” reports released today by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), China’s Internet censors blocked the ICIJ domain and any search engine queries for “Panama Papers.” (See screencap, above.)

State news agencies likewise have no mention of the reports, which have so far named Xi’s brother-in-law and relatives of past and present Politburo members as only a few of the holders of offshore accounts sheltering billions of dollars internationally.

English language news sites are so far not affected, but Chinese language sites are blocked or censored. Online discussion is also being monitored and blocked, the BBC reports.

Chinese holders of overseas accounts whom the ICIJ has so far named are:

  • Li XiaoLin, businesswoman and daughter of former Premier Li Peng. ICIJ revealed in 2015 she held nearly $2.48 million in a secret HSBC account in Switzerland.
  • Deng Jiagui, brother-in-law of sitting President Xi Jinping. Bloomberg had already reported in 2012 that Deng and his wife held several hundred million dollars in offshore assets. Bloomberg’s website has been blocked ever since those reports came out.
  • Jasmine Li, granddaughter of a former member of the Politburo, Jia Qingling. ICIJ reports that Li is the secret, sole shareholder of two shell companies, Harvest Sun Trading Ltd. and Xin Sheng Investments, which are the parent companies of two Beijing-registered consulting companies.
  • Patrick Henri Devilliers, French architect and an associate of disgraced Party member Bo Xilai and his wife, Gu Kailai. ICIJ reports that Devilliers helped Gu set up a secret offshore company that was used to purchase a luxury villa in the south of France. Bo was tried and convicted of corruption in 2013. Gu was tried and convicted in 2012 for the murder of a British businessman. Devilliers was detained in China, but later released.

At least four other Chinese are expected to be named, according to the Associated Press.

The BBC reported that relatives of two other members of China’s elite Standing Committee, Zhang Gaoli and Liu Yunshan, are also included in the document dump.

Other names released so far include several associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin, FIFA officials and players, the wife of Iceland’s prime minister, several heads of state in Africa, Asia and the Arab States, and an American businesswoman.

ICIJ intends to release a more complete list next month.

Chinese Internet censors are quick to cut off access to any information that may embarrass the sitting government. Soon after The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg reported in 2012 on the substantial offshore assets of former Premier Wen Jiabao’s family members, those websites were blocked. They still are.

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