China has sacked a top nuclear power official, state press said Friday, after reports he was being investigated for allegedly squandering public funds and taking bribes of up to 260 million dollars.
Kang Rixin, born 1953, was removed as party secretary and general manager of state-owned China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) due to possible involvement in “grave violations of discipline”, the Xinhua news agency said.
Chinese authorities often refer to “discipline violations” to mean acts of corruption.
Kang has been replaced by Sun Qin, a 56-year-old deputy head of China’s National Energy Administration, Xinhua said, citing an unnamed official with the Communist Party’s Central Organisation Department.
Authorities are probing the possibility that Kang took bribes from French nuclear power giant Areva for it to win a contract for a project in south China, previous Chinese media reports said. Areva has denied such claims.
In November 2007, Areva announced an agreement to supply Guangdong province with two third-generation nuclear reactors in a deal worth eight billion euros (11.9 billion dollars at the time).
Areva rejected suggestions of bribery on Friday.
“Areva considers the allegations of suspected corruption as totally baseless because the company did not sign this contract with CNNC in China, but with CGNPC (China Guangdong Nuclear Power Company),” Patricia Marie, the firm’s Paris-based spokeswoman, told AFP.
Kang also allegedly traded on the stock market large amounts of public funds earmarked for the construction of three nuclear power plants, incurring huge losses when the market crashed last year, the Xinhua report said.
China’s President Hu Jintao has repeatedly warned that corruption is one of the greatest threats to the legitimacy of Communist Party rule and courts often hand down harsh sentences to make an example of offenders.
In the latest example, Li Peiying, the former head of the company that owns Beijing Capital International Airport, was executed last week.
Li, 60, was convicted of bribery and embezzlement totalling nearly 16 million dollars.
The former head of oil giant Sinopec, Chen Tonghai, was handed a suspended death sentence in July after being found guilty of corrupt practices.
The mayor of the southern boom town of Shenzhen, Xu Zongheng, has been under investigation for corruption since his removal from office in June.