Friday, October 30, 2020

Baidu accuses former VP Wei Fang of corruption

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Baidu, China’s leading online search group, has reported a former executive to the police. It accuses him of corruption.

Wei Fang, a former VP at the company, was investigated by Baidu’s professional ethics committee. The company did not disclose the nature of the alleged corruption.

It said that Wei was VP of finance in 2018, and held supervisory roles at more than a dozen Baidu subsidiary companies.

Since Xi Jinping became China’s president in 2012, the private and public sectors have both stepped up anti-corruption campaigns.

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Baidu set up its own ethics committee in 2011 and has investigated more than 100 employees. Last year it fired 14 employees for 12 cases of internal corruption, ranging from bribery to dealing in trade secrets.

Often considered as part of a triumvirate of leading tech companies in China, alongside Alibaba and Tencent, Baidu’s activities stretch from search and maps to AI and self-driving cars.

Baidu also holds a majority stake in streaming giant iQIYI, which last month was accused of fraud by a team of American activist investors. IQIYI has denied the claims of Wolfpack Research, which accused it of inflating user numbers and revenue, while also hiding the fraud from auditors and investors by overpaying for content, acquisitions and other assets.

The moves follow the revelations at two U.S.-traded Chinese firms. Luckin Coffee was forced to admit that its revenues had been inflated by $312 million (RMB2.2 billion) last year. TAL Education Group said on April 7 that a staff member had been taken into custody for inflating sales figures.

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