Caixin
FINANCE

Fallen Chief of Bad-Asset Manager Had Tons of Cash — Literally

Lai Xiaomin, former chairman of China Huarong Asset Management Co. Ltd. Photo: IC
Lai Xiaomin, former chairman of China Huarong Asset Management Co. Ltd. Photo: IC

After more than five years heading up one of China most powerful financial companies, Lai Xiaomin had three metric tons of cash hidden at home, a 300 million yuan ($43.4 million) bank account in the name of his mother and a history of trading favors for sex.

Lai had once been the most sought-after figure in China’s financial sector. He chaired, transformed and aggressively expanded one of the nation’s four largest bad-asset managers, China Huarong Asset Management Co. Ltd.

Established in 1999, Huarong was set up by the central government to clean up soured loans in the banking industry. Lai joined Huarong in 2009 and was appointed as the company’s chairman and party chief in 2012.

During his tenure, Huarong underwent a radical transformation marked by a rapid expansion of its assets, liabilities and business scope. The company grew into a goliath that engaged in a wide range of financial services, including securities, trusts, banking and financial leasing. Since 2015, the company has also been investing overseas at an accelerated pace, acquiring more than 3 trillion yuan in offshore assets.

On Monday, Lai was expelled from the Communist Party of China and removed from public office for “serious violations of party discipline,” a common euphemism for corruption.

In several exclusive interviews with Caixin, sources close to Lai revealed a hidden side of this once powerful figure in Chinese financial sector and detailed his acts of corruption and cronyism over the years.

Lai, according to people close to him, has a special love for cash. Authorities have discovered three tons of cash worth of 270 million yuan in different currencies at his properties in Beijing, Caixin has learned.

As the country stepped up its anti-corruption campaign, Lai had exhausted ways to hide the properties where he hid his cash. One house was bought and transferred through five different people to hide his identity as the property’s real owner, people familiar with Lai’s case told Caixin.

Then there was the 300 million yuan in Lai’s mother’s bank account, Caixin has learned. On holidays, people who wished to do business with Huarong and Lai would give money to his mother rather than offering it to him directly.

People at Huarong told Caixin that during Lai’s tenure, there was an unspoken list of different prices that people could pay to get jobs at Huarong or its subsidiaries.

Thirty thousand yuan was the price for getting a job at Huarong. It cost half a million yuan to get a management position and 1 million yuan to become a director at one of Huarong’s subsidiaries, sources at Huarong told Caixin.

In April, Lai was placed under investigation, and Wang Zhanfeng, a senior banking regulator, was appointed to replace him as party chief and chairman of the scandal-ridden company.

Contact reporter Charlotte Yang (yutingyang@caixin.com)

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