Suzhou Industrial Park's former chief executive officer Bai Guizhi, a Chinese national, has been investigated for graft, in the most serious scandal to hit the first bilateral project between China and Singapore.
The Sunday Times understands that coastal city Suzhou's disciplinary commission launched investigations against Mr Baion Sept 13 for "serious disciplinary violations" - usually referring to corruption - although it announced so only last Friday.
Sources said Mr Bai, 59, resigned as CEO of the Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) joint venture firm, China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park Development Group (CSSD), days after he was investigated. He was appointed to his role less than three months ago.
Chinese media reported yesterday that Mr Bai was likely implicated in his previous work in Jiangsu province, which has seen a recent spate of officials sacked under graft investigations. "We don't think the investigations centred on his work in the CSSD as he has worked here only for a short time," said a reliable source who declined to be named.
The Sunday Times also understands that Mr Bai's predecessor, current CSSD chairman Zhao Zhisong, is now acting CEO of the firm, which has run the government-to-government project since it was launched in 1994.
Shenzhen University Sino-Singapore expert Lv Yuanli believes the sacking should have little adverse impact on bilateral cooperation and the commemorative activities for SIP's 20th anniversary, alongside a high-level meeting chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Chinese Executive Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli, later this year.
"Bai's sacking is not an isolated case that took place only in the SIP, but part of a new normal in China where officials of all ranks and backgrounds are being investigated, mostly for misdeeds in the past," said Professor Lv.
Still, he said, the case highlights the need for both sides to step up safeguards and conduct better due diligence on officials considered for key appointments.
SIP's administrative committee, an arm of the Suzhou city government overseeing the project, is believed to be responsible for Mr Bai's appointment and that of other key posts in the industrial park. CSSD chief executives were Singaporeans from 1994 to 2000, when a Singapore consortium held a majority 65 per cent stake in SIP - which was set up with the backing of Singapore's former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and the late Chinese strongman Deng Xiaoping.
The key goal of the 288 sq km industrial park was to replicate Singapore's industrialisation expertise and to transfer the Republic's "software" and way of doing things to Suzhou and other cities. From Jan 1, 2001, Chinese nationals were appointed as CEOs after a loss-making streak in SIP saw Singapore shrinking its stake to 35 per cent and its share of the park to just 8 sq km, instead of the 70 sq km planned.
Things have picked up for SIP. It has become one of China's most successful industrial parks, and garnered international awards.
A Singapore consortium now holds a 28 per cent stake in the CSSD.
This article was first published on September 21, 2014.
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