Li Peng's daughter denies 'rumors'

Updated: 2013-10-13 23:17

By Zhao Lei (China Daily)

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The daughter of former premier Li Peng, has denied foreign media reports that she helped broker Zurich Insurance's entry into the Chinese market.

Accusations against Li Xiaolin, chairwoman of China Power International Development, which is listed in Hong Kong, were rejected in a statement on the company's micro blog on Sunday.

The statement said that "rumors circulated on the Internet about Li's involvement in insurance (company) transactions are merely malevolent defamation".

It said Li never had personal contact with any insurance company and knows no one from such companies, adding that she reserves the right to take legal action against anyone who made or transmitted the "rumors".

The denial was issued after The Daily Telegraph published a story on Thursday saying the 52-year-old businesswoman played a leading role in a business deal in which Zurich Insurance, one of the biggest insurers in the world, purchased nearly a quarter of the shares of New China Life, a large insurance company in China.

The article said Li introduced executives from the Swiss insurer to three businessmen in China, including Zhang Hongwei, chairman of Orient Group and one of China's richest men, who held a majority stake in New China Life, during an official banquet in Beijing in 1995.

Zurich Insurance later transferred $16.9 million into an offshore Credit Suisse account in the Bahamas before the three businessmen agreed to sell about a quarter of New China Life, according to the report, which said the transaction was made even though China still barred foreign companies from investing in its insurance sector at the time.

Most materials cited by the British newspaper in its report were from court documents and transcripts in the United States that recorded a financial dispute between Zhang and a former employee, Zhao Hong.

In 2010, Zhang accused Zhao in a US court of misappropriating some of the money Zurich paid. During the hearing, details of the deal were aired in court, The Daily Telegraph reported.

In a statement released on Sunday, Zhang said Li Xiaolin "had never taken part in Orient Group's commercial activities and the group has never sold shares of New China Life to Zurich Insurance".

However, he admitted the group received $16.9 million from the Swiss company for "assisting it to tap into Chinese market", saying this is a "normal business activity".

South China Morning Post quoted from a statement from Zurich Insurance saying that "based on a legal review conducted by Zurich, Zurich did not violate any laws or regulations existing at the time of these events."

Li, one of China's highest-profile businesswomen, is the only daughter of Li Peng, who worked for almost 40 years in the electricity generation sector before becoming premier in 1988.

She trained as a power generation engineer at Tsinghua University in Beijing where she obtained a master's degree in power systems and automation in 1988.

Starting her career as a government official overseeing the power industry, Li Xiaolin gradually became a heavyweight in the field and was appointed head of China Power International Development, a subsidiary of the State-owned China Power Investment Corp, in 2008.

In 2011, Fortune magazine named her as one of the 25 most influential business leaders in Asia.