A corruption probe in Shanghai appears to have widened into examining the city’s sporting world after state media reported on Wednesday that the head of Formula One racing in China had been called in for questioning by investigators.
Yu Zhifei, who runs the company that manages Shanghai’s F1 circuit, was “assisting investigations” over alleged “illegal business operations”, the official Shanghai Securities News said.
Mr Yu is the latest in a series of senior figures in Shanghai politics and business who have come under scrutiny in the corruption probe, although unlike a number of other officials he has not been formally detained by the 100-strong team of investigators sent by Beijing.
The corruption scandal began in the summer but took on national political dimensions in September when Chen Liangyu, the party secretary in Shanghai and a member of the national politburo, was detained by investigators.
The initial focus of the probe was the city’s pension fund and its investments in an industrial group and a number of property deals, but it has mushroomed since Mr Chen’s detention.
Earlier this week, the chief executive of one of China’s largest fund management groups was detained as part of the investigation. Han Fanghe, head of Hua An Fund Management, was being investigated for alleged breaches of party discipline, the company said.
Shanghai Electric, one of the most important industrial groups in the city, said on Wednesday that two more of its executives were being investigated for allegedly breaking Communist party rules.
Wang Chengmin, chairman of both Shanghai Electric and Hua An, was detained by investigators in August. Shanghai Electric has a 20 per cent stake in Hua An.
With rumours that up to 10 financial executives have been detained in the probe, it appears that investigators are looking more closely into the relationship between the pension fund and leading banks and investors in the city.
With Beijing winning the right to hold the Olympics, Shanghai invested heavily under Mr Chen in two new sporting arenas – a $350m motor racetrack that has staged a F1 race since 2004 and the $150m Qizhong tennis centre, which holds the Masters Cup tournament next month.
Mr Yu, who used to run the Shanghai Shenhua football club, is chief executive of Shanghai International Circuit, the company that manages the F1 racetrack. The company refused to comment on the report.
He is believed to have been a close associate of Mr Chen since the 1980s when he ran a factory in the Huangpu district of Shanghai at a time when Mr Chen was the district boss.