Singapore's first flagship bilateral project with China, the Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP), has been rocked by another graft scandal - this time involving the former chairman of its joint venture firm - barely two weeks after its chief executive came under investigation.
Still, despite the successive investigations against two senior officials, both Chinese nationals, SIP's top honchos told The Straits Times in exclusive interviews yesterday that operations at the 20-year-old park are not affected. Steps will be taken to prevent similar cases, the top officials said.
Mr Yang Zhiping, who heads the Suzhou Industrial Park Administrative Committee (Sipac), the park's local government authority, said: "We can't comment yet as investigations are ongoing. But regarding the selection of key officials, it is true that we could improve the due diligence process, though it might not be possible to know everything about their background.
"Laws in Singapore are very strict, but there are still criminals around. Similarly, there will be corrupt officials, but they are in the minority."
Suzhou city's disciplinary commission announced yesterday that Mr Du Jianhua, deputy party secretary of Sipac's working committee, is now facing investigations for "serious disciplinary violations". The phrase usually refers to corruption.
Mr Du was concurrently chairman of the joint venture firm - China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park Development Group (CSSD) - from June 2008 to June this year, when he was succeeded by its chief executive at the time, Mr Zhao Zhisong.
Mr Zhao's successor Bai Guizhi, who was appointed as chief executive at end-June, was placed under investigation on Sept 13 by the disciplinary commission. Mr Bai quit his post days after the investigations began, The Straits Times reported last Sunday.
The Straits Times understands that Mr Du was among five deputy party secretaries in Sipac, which is tasked with replicating Singapore's industrialisation expertise in Suzhou and other Chinese cities.
SIP's most senior official is Mr Wang Xiang, Sipac's party secretary. Key office-holders in CSSD are believed to be nominated by Sipac and approved by the firm's board of directors.
Separately, Mr Zhao told The Straits Times that investigations into Mr Bai revolved around personal issues, as he tried to reassure investors and companies about the industrial park.
"I can say categorically that his case has nothing to do with the company," Mr Zhao said.
"Our operations are progressing normally. You will even see our company rolling out new projects soon."
Chinese media, however, reported yesterday that more officials might be implicated as part of inspections launched by the Jiangsu provincial-level disciplinary commission at the bilateral project over the past six months.
Separately, a team despatched by the Communist Party's central disciplinary commission has been investigating complaints against errant officials in Jiangsu province since end-July.
Investigations against Mr Bai reportedly centre on his previous posts in Suzhou city and elsewhere in Jiangsu.
It is not clear what investigations against Mr Du would centre on.
A graduate of Xi'an Jiaotong University, he was deputy head of Sipac as well before he came under investigation yesterday. He was also formerly chief executive of a CSSD subsidiary, China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park Land.
This article was first published on Sep 26, 2014.
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