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China PM's family has US$2.7 bil. stash: report

BEIJING -- Relatives of China's reformist premier have amassed huge riches during his tenure, according to a report Friday that came as the Communist Party strives to clean house before a pivotal handover of power.

The New York Times investigation about the family of Wen Jiabao, who will be replaced in a 10-yearly leadership transition next month, coincided with an announcement clearing the way for the prosecution of disgraced leader Bo Xilai.

Beijing immediately dismissed the report as an attempt to tarnish China, with foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei telling reporters in response to a question on the article: “Some reports smear China and have ulterior motives.”

Detailing a string of deals, the newspaper said that many relatives of the government's number two — a self-styled man of the people known popularly as “Grandpa Wen” — had become “extraordinarily wealthy” during his time in office.

Investments by Wen's son, wife and others spanning the banking, jewelry and telecom sectors were worth at least US$2.7 billion according to an analysis of company and regulatory filings from 1992-2012.

The revelations come as a particular embarrassment for Wen, who is the standard-bearer of the Communist Party's reformist wing and has campaigned against the rampant corruption that infuriates many ordinary Chinese.

In a speech published in April, he said official corruption was “the biggest danger facing the ruling party” and warned that “those who hold political power may perish” unless it is addressed.

President Hu Jintao, who like Wen will step down after 10 years in office, has also made fighting graft in the Communist Party a top priority, and the issue is sure to figure in the party's 18th congress starting on Nov. 8.

Ahead of the congress, the party proceeded with an unfinished item of business on Friday with the announcement by state media that ex-Chongqing city boss Bo had been expelled from parliament and had his legal immunity lifted.

Bo, who led a leftist “Red revival” inside the party from his base in Chongqing, was once tipped for elevation to the elite politburo and his demise has exposed internal divisions in China's highly secretive power structure.

The NYT investigation darkens the clouds hanging over the Communist Party caused by the Bo scandal as the regime prepares to name successors to Wen and Hu to steer the world's second-largest economy for the next decade.

Next month's congress will culminate in the unveiling of a new politburo that is expected to see Vice President Xi Jinping promoted to Communist Party general-secretary, in place of Hu.

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