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Wine Spectator: Chinese Corruption Probe Targets Firms That Bought Bordeaux Wineries

July 3, 2014

A Chinese government crackdown on corruption has accused two companies of misusing $43 million in public funds on a shopping spree that included 14 Bordeaux châteaus, Wine Spectator reports. The investigation threatens to bring down leading business figures in the People’s Republic and could see the châteaus confiscated. It also raises questions about Chinese investments in Bordeaux’s wine industry.

In a report released early this week, China’s National Audit Office (NAO) accused Haichang Holdings Ltd. and Rave Sun group, both based in the coastal city of Dalian, of misspending $43 million (268 million renminbi) in public funds. According to the report, the cash was allocated by the Dalian government to help the firms invest in foreign high-tech companies.

Haichang is a well-known conglomerate in China with investments in property, oil, tourism and shipping; it’s owned by the elusive tycoon Qu Naijie (last year, Forbes estimated his net worth at more than $800 million). Qu arrived in Bordeaux in 2010, acquiring his first estate, Château Chenu Lafitte, then quickly snapping up more than 23 châteaus in three years. Haichang installed Chinese management teams at several châteaus and put some back on the market, offering them to Chinese businesses looking to invest in Bordeaux. The company also owned vineyards near Dalian.

Haichang’s manager in Bordeaux said the company did not agree with what had been announced, but that he was not authorized to speak with the press.

The NAO report also accuses Rave Sun group, which acquired Château Les Brettes in 2011 and owns the négociant Brillar. Employees at Château Les Brettes could not be reached for comment.

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