INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST | SYDNEY
Investigative journalist specialising in corporate malfeasance and corruption.
BCom (Accounting & Finance), BA (Journalism), Diploma of Financial Planning
CCP arm running global “spy” cell set up shop in Sydney’s Barangaroo: with gov't approval
November 29, 2019
The China state-owned conglomerate which runs the listed Hong Kong company accused of being a front for an international espionage ring is operating in Sydney, with the banking regulator giving it a tick of approval late last year.
The Australian Prudential and Regulatory Authority (APRA) issued China Everbright Bank Co with a banking licence in December, declaring it a “foreign authorised deposit-taking institution”.
China Everbright Bank is an arm of the Chinese Communist Party-owned China Everbright Group.
Another arm of China Everbright Group is China Everbright Securities (HK), which is a “related party” to, and the manager of, China Innovation Investment Limited (CIIL), a company listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange which is allegedly an espionage Trojan Horse.
Last week, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes reported the case of Wang Liqiang, who claims to be a Chinese spy who worked as part of an outfit hidden in CIIL, which he said was a front company used by Communist Party officials and Chinese intelligence agencies.
Mark Adams, Executive General Manager for APRA’s Specialised Institutions Division, approved China Everbright Bank's licence in late December.
APRA and its senior executives were heavily criticised at last year’s banking royal commission, including for failing to take a sufficiently tough stance on crime, including in some cases taking no action at all.
APRA chairman Wayne Byers and deputy chairman Helen Rowell were approached for comment today.
“APRA has no comment,” APRA spokesman Ben McLean said.
In February this year China Everbright Bank opened a branch in Sydney CBD’s recently developed Barangaroo precinct, dubbing the office as “the company’s first in the southern hemisphere”.
"The establishment of CEB Sydney is symbolic of the growing commercial ties between Australia and China," China Everbright Bank chief executive officer Ge Haijiao said at the time.
"CEB Sydney branch is well placed to grasp the strategic opportunities of the Belt and Road Initiative and the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement."
Late on Sunday, after the scandal involving Mr Wang broke in the media, CIIL executive director Mr Xiang Xin and “alternate director” Ms Kung Ching were detained at Taiwan’s main airport while trying to leave the country.
CIIL released a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange saying confirming the pair had been stopped at the airport, but said Mr Wang had never worked at CIIL and that “the news reports were all fictitious and forced”.
On Wednesday we revealed CIIL was managed by the CCP-owned China Everbright Group, that CIIL operated through a web of tax havens and that it had quietly shuttered most of its operations earlier this month, on November 8.
That move came just days after Mr Wang had given sworn evidence to the nation’s counter espionage agency, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, about CIIL’s alleged espionage activities and had made a bid to seek asylum in Australia.
On November 8, CIIL shut down at least four of its five investment arms, despite having operated most of them for almost a decade.
Late Wednesday afternoon Hong Kong time, in another statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange, CIIL announced two of its non-executive directors, Mr Chan Wing Kong Ringo and Mr Lee Wing Hang, had resigned from the company.
CIIL said the loss of those two directors meant it was now in breach of the exchange listing rules, which require companies to have a minimum number of directors.
The statement said each man had “confirmed that he has no disagreement with the board” and that there were “no other matters” in relation to the resignations that needed to be brought to the attention of CIIL’s shareholders.
The connection between Mr Wang, CIIL and the Chinese Communist Party-owned China Everbright Group appears yet to be picked up by the international media.
Companies like Everbright Group are colloquially known as “red chip” companies, companies which are largely based in China but which list on the Hong Kong stock exchange to help them expand internationally and to raise extra money outside China.
China Everbright Group and its subsidiaries are active participants in the Chinese Communist Party’s expansionist “Belt and Road Initiative”, which involves building new infrastructure projects across the globe.
One major arm of China Everbright Group is Hong Kong-based Everbright International.
On Everbright International’s website, under the heading “Corporate Culture”, is a page titled “Outward Bound” which contains photos of hundreds of Everbright employees dressed in military uniforms which bear Everbright International’s name or logo.
In some photos the camouflaged workers are marching, in others they are holding or standing in front of large signs bearing the Everbright insignia.
In one photograph, dozens of employees in military uniform form have grouped to form the shape of the company logo.
Above the images, Everbright International’s website says the company provides “business execution training for new recruits every year”.
“Execution training typically takes place in camps, and the new recruits are trained for teamwork and business execution,” the site says.
“The purpose of the execution training camps is to develop a strong sense of accountability and social responsibility for our employees.
“Encouraged in the barracks, and inspired at Everbright,” Everbright International's site says.
Everbright International staff training
Training camps at Everbright International
Everbright International's staff photo
Everbright International's web page
Anthony Klan is an investigative journalist specialising in business malfeasance and government corruption. His work has sparked numerous inquiries and law reforms. He holds Australia’s top journalism award, a Walkley Award, for business journalism, and has been named a finalist for the Graham Perkin Australian journalist of the year. He has won News Corporation Australia’s top award and has been named News Corporation Australia business journalist of the year on three occasions. In 2016 he was named a finalist in both the investigative and business categories of the Society of Asia Publishing Awards and a finalist for the NSW Kennedy Award for Outstanding Financial Journalism. Have a tip off? Complete confidentiality assured: email@example.com
News Corporation Australia journalist of the year, Sir Keith Murdoch Award for Excellence in Journalism, 2010; (finalist) 2018
Walkley Award for Business Journalism, all media, 2007
Graham Perkin Australian Journalist of the Year, (finalist) 2010
News Corporation Australia Business Journalist of the Year, 2007; 2011; 2014
News Corporation Australia Business Journalist of the Year (highly commended) 2009; (finalist) 2016; (finalist) 2018
Citi Journalism Award for Excellence, Personal Finance, 2015
Citi Journalism Award for Excellence, Broadcast (finalist) 2016
NSW Kennedy Award for Outstanding Investigative Reporting (finalist) 2015
NSW Kennedy Award for Outstanding Finance Reporting (finalist) 2015; (finalist) 2016
Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA) Excellence in Investigative Reporting (finalist) 2016
Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA) the Scoop Award (finalist) 2016
Best News Journalist, IT Journalism Awards 2018