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Chinese government funds misused to buy French vineyards

A French winery
A French winery Rueters

Corrupt Chinese businessmen have diverted government grants to buy French vineyards, a report by China’s national auditors revealed on Wednesday. China has become a major investor in wineries in Bordeaux but not all the money invested has been honestly come by, officials warn.

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Two companies in the port city of Dalian in north-east China used a grant of 268 million yuan (32 million euros) to buy foreign-made technology to buy 14 vineyards in Bordeaux, a report by China’s National Audit Office has revealed.

One of them, the Haichang conglomerate, which has interests in sea transport, property and energy, is one of the biggest Chinese investors in Bordeaux and has bought the prestigious Chenu-Lafitte château.

France’s money-laundering investigators Tracfin last year warned that Chinese and Russian investors were using finance of uncertain origin to buy into the wine business in France.

The Chinese auditor’s report revealed 314 cases of corruption.

In one of them high-level officials who were supposed to visit a Chinese research station in Antarctica spent half the time on holiday in France and Chile and in another a group of geologists who were supposed to be looking into shale gas in Canada spent three days in the US casino resort Las Vegas at the public expense.

Bribe-taking in China has become more sophisticated, the report noted, with recipients appointing brokers to handle their illicit gains and some investing in public-welfare operations to improve their image.
 

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