Rumours Swirl After Chairman Of China's Ambang Reportedly Arrested

Owen Stevens
June 14, 2017

Wu Xiaohui, chairman of China's Anbang Insurance Group, has been detained by the country's authorities, according to the Caijing business magazine and other local reports.

The financial magazine Caijing reported that officials from the China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC) informed a small group of employees of Anbang at a meeting on the company headquarters on Saturday that Mr Wu, 50, had been detained.

Anbang said in a statement that Mr Wu was "unable to perform his duties ... for personal reasons".

It owns the Waldorf Astoria in NY and past year tried to buy Starwood Hotels.

At the end of April, financial publisher Caixin Media released an extensive report on Anbang, describing "complicated transactions that form a maze of capital flow involving more than 100 companies, all linked to the company's mysterious Chairman Wu Xiaohui".

Established in 2004 by Wu as an automotive and property insurer, Anbang has gained prominence in recent years, buying Dutch insurer Vivat, South Korea's Tong Yang Life Insurance and Strategic Hotels & Resorts in the US.

Regulators say reducing financial risks in the Chinese economy is a priority this year.

In May, the Insurance Regulatory Commission accused Anbang of violating certain provisions and banned the group from filing applications for new insurance products for three months. He founded the company in 2004 and built it into one of China's biggest insurance companies, managing assets worth 1.65 trillion yuan (€216 billion) including the landmark NY hotel.

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Anbang held controversial negotiations with the company owned by Trump's White House adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, for an investment in an office tower on New York's famous Fifth Avenue.

The head of a deal-hungry Chinese insurer that recently held talks with the Kushner family over a NY office tower is reported to have been detained by Chinese authorities.

If true, Mr Wu's detention marks another major step in President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign that is now taking aim at the financial services industry.

Anbang said it raised 50 billion yuan ($8 billion) from investors in 2014 to pay for its buying spree.

Caixin's April report said at least 30 billion yuan ($4.3 billion) of that money really was payments from policyholders.

Anbang became embroiled in a rare and public war of words last month with a leading Chinese business magazine about the insurer's ownership structure.

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