The chief accountant for China National Petroleum Corp has been “summoned to assist in an investigation” into high-level corruption, according to Chinese news reports, in an apparent widening of a probe into Asia’s largest energy company.
Wen Qingshan, the chief accountant at CNPC and chairman of CNPC subsidiary Kunlun Energy, was summoned to assist in the investigation in recent days, the influential Chinese magazine Caixin reported.
Kunlun’s shares were suspended in Hong Kong on Tuesday pending an announcement from the company.
At least a dozen serving and former top executives of CNPC and PetroChina, its Hong Kong and New York-listed subsidiary, have been detained in recent months as part of a sweeping graft inquiry into the power base of one of China’s most powerful politicians.
Zhou Yongkang, the former security tsar and retired member of the Chinese Communist party’s Politburo Standing Committee, which effectively rules China, is the real target of the CNPC investigation, according to people familiar with the matter.
Mr Zhou’s son, Zhou Bin, was detained earlier this year and in recent weeks feverish speculation has been percolating through Beijing that Mr Zhou has also been placed under house arrest.
As head of China’s pervasive state security apparatus, as well as the police and courts, for five years, Mr Zhou was one of the most powerful men in China until he retired in November 2012.
If he does eventually face public charges it would mark the first time since the end of the Cultural Revolution in the late 1970s that any current or former members of the Politburo Standing Committee has been put on trial.
Mr Wen, 55, the CNPC chief accountant, was only promoted to his current positions in July and August, after a group of Zhou protégés and allies at the company were detained on alleged corruption charges.
Around the same time, Jiang Jiemin, the head of China’s State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission and the former head of CNPC, was also taken into custody.
CNPC and Kunlun officials refused to comment further but, in a trading suspension notice from the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, Kunlun said Mr Wen remained its chairman as of Tuesday morning.