Employer is silent
China won’t let top bankers leave the country
September 25, 2023, 1:48 p.m
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Influential business people have been disappearing in China for years. Now an investment banker is no longer allowed to leave the country. That could be bad news for a Chinese tech billionaire.
A high-ranking banker at the financial group Nomura, Charles Wang Zhonghe, was banned from leaving mainland China. This is reported by the Financial Times, citing people familiar with the matter. The measure is related to the disappearance of top tech dealmaker Bao Fan.
Bao was one of the most important financiers of Chinese tech startups with his investment company China Renaissance Holding. He served as a consultant on mega mergers in the industry. Bao went missing in February and has not been seen since. Two weeks later there was a sign of life: his company announced that the billionaire was “cooperating in an investigation” by the authorities. Nothing more has been known so far.
According to his Linkedin profile, Wang was on Wall Street in the 1990s and moved back to Hong Kong in 1996, where he worked for Deutsche Bank. Until 2016 he worked in the financial metropolis for the state-owned Industrial and Commercial Bank (ICBC). There he eventually became deputy CEO and was responsible, among other things, for investment banking. He has been at Nomura since 2018.
Wang was not arrested and was allowed to move within mainland China, it said. Neither Wang nor his employer have yet wanted to comment. According to the Financial Times, the exit ban has to do with his time at ICBC. While he was working at the bank, one of his colleagues was Cong Lin. He later moved to Renaissance Holding, the currently missing Bao, and held a leadership role there until he was arrested by an anti-corruption agency last fall. He has been in custody ever since.
First “interview”, then custody
According to Chinese media reports, this arrest was related to his work at ICBC, where he played an important role in the partnership with Renaissance. In 2017, ICBC, under Cong’s leadership, granted the financial firm a $200 million loan, which the company repaid after its stock market debut a year later. The loan was secured by shares from the tech financier. After the IPO, Bao brought Cong to Renaissance and made him president. A year ago, he was summoned by China’s securities regulator for an “interview” and then taken into custody.
Influential business people have been disappearing in China for several years. Most of them later reappear – either in freedom or in court. Some of them were sentenced to long prison terms. They were usually accused of being involved in corruption or tax affairs.
In 2020, Jack Ma, the founder of the online giant Alibaba and at times the richest Chinese by far, disappeared from the scene for three months. After publicly criticizing financial authorities as a brake on innovation, the IPO of Alibaba’s financial vehicle Ant Group was canceled at the last minute and Ma disappeared for unclear reasons. Even then, he was officially no longer in the management of the companies he founded. But as a founder and major shareholder, he continued to be actively involved in the company’s management. When he resurfaced, he announced that he would take care of charitable projects in the future and largely withdrew from the public eye.