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PH-friendly Chinese tycoon probed for bribery – report

MANILA, Philippines – The Chinese real estate tycoon seen as one of the major figures in the thawing of Sino-Philippine relations under the administration of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is being investigated in Beijing over corruption allegations, a report said Tuesday, June 27.

China's anti-corruption watchdog on Friday, June 23, said Huang Rulun is being investigated over bribery allegations, the Financial Times (FT) reported Tuesday.

This comes after Huang was removed from a high-level advisory body in Fujian province last week due to suspicion of bribery, Chinese news website Caixin reported.

Huang's company, Century Golden Resources Group, has been tagged by Chinese state media as a source of bribes paid to Bai Enpai, the party secretary of Yunnan province, in connection with a corruption case, the FT said.

A total of 17 firms and individuals have been linked to the case, where Bai Enpai was reported to have received payments in return for favors when he was the party chief in Yunnan and Qinghai provinces.

The alleged bribes Bai received totaled 246 million yuan (around $36 million), paid between 2000 and 2013, Caixin reported.

Key figure

The 66-year-old Huang is the founder of Chinese real estate company Century Golden Resources Group, which has in its portfolio 5-star hotels and shopping malls, and investments in China, Hong Kong, Sweden, Denmark, and the Philippines.

Forbes estimated his net worth to be around $3.6 billion in 2016, making him the 49th wealthiest businessman in China as of 2016.

Reuters, in a November 2016 profile, said Huang has portrayed himself as a "clean-living philanthropist." In 2015 alone, he reportedly donated $125 million, making him one of China's top donors, Reuters said, citing the Hurun Report.

His billion-dollar business started out in Manila's Binondo district, where he came after leaving China in 1986 to start a small business. In 1991, he returned to his native Fujian province, where he expanded his business, later going national.

Ties to Duterte

INAUGURATION. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese businessman Huang Rulun attend the inauguration of the mega drug rehabilitation center in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija on November 29, 2016. Malacanang file photo

Huang was first introduced to Duterte through a common Chinese friend, according to Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr during the inauguration of the "mega" drug rehabilitation facility in Nueva Ecija in November 2016.

The businessman has met with Duterte on several occasions – once before the President took office in June 28, 2016, on his inauguration day, and about a month into the Duterte administration on July 27, in Malacañang, where the tycoon first expressed his intention to donate money for drug rehabilitation facilities.

They also met during Duterte's state visit to China in October 2016.

During the November event, Duterte praised Huang as a "good Samaritan" who "came out of nowhere and went to my office and said that he would help me solve the drug problem."

Huang, in response, said his donation is a "modest effort" to help the Philippines become "peaceful, stable, and harmonious." He also said he "fully supports" the war on drugs.

The Nueva Ecija facility unveiled in November sits on an 11-hectare compound in Fort Magsaysay, which, when completed, can accommodate up to 10,000 patients. A press release from Huang's staff handed to journalists that day said the billionaire donated P1.4 billion for two drug rehabilitation centers occupying a total area of 100,000 square meters.

Huang told the Chinese state-run Global Times newspaper in October 2016 that he is "happy to invest in the Philippines" as long as the Philippine government "maintains a friendly relationship with China." – Rappler.com

$1 = 6.81 CNY