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Chinese Police Catches Hold of $1.5 Billion Money in Online Lending Scandal

The internet has helped financial platforms attract money from financial novices with little knowledge of the risks involved.

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Chinese policemen watch as depositors from Ezubao gather outside the State Bureau for Letters and Calls Reception Division office in Beijing, Jan. 1, 2016. China's policy ministry says it investigated 380 online lenders following an avalanche of scandals. VOA

Chinese police have investigated 380 online lenders and frozen $1.5 billion in assets following an avalanche of scandals in the huge but lightly regulated industry, the government announced Monday.

Beijing allowed a private finance industry to flourish in order to supply credit to entrepreneurs and households that aren’t served by the state-run banking system. But that threatens to become a liability for the ruling Communist Party after bankruptcies and fraud cases prompted protests and complaints of official indifference to small investors.

The police ministry said it launched the investigation because person-to-person, or P2P, lending was increasingly risky and rife with complaints about fraud, mismanagement and waste.

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The police ministry said it launched the investigation because person-to-person, or P2P, lending was increasingly risky and rife with complaints about fraud, mismanagement and waste. Pixabay

The ministry gave no details of arrests but said more than 100 executives were being sought by investigators and some had fled abroad. It said authorities seized or froze 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) but gave no indication how much might be returned to depositors.

Police say some lenders and investment vehicles were brazenly fraudulent, while others collapsed after inexperienced founders failed to manage risk.

Monday’s statement said P2P lenders were investigated for complaints including wasting money, reporting phony investment plans and using illegal tactics to raise money.

Lending through online platforms grew by triple digits annually until 2017 when regulators tightened controls.

Depositors lent 1.9 trillion yuan ($280 billion) last year, but that was down by 50 percent from 2017, according to the Shenzhen Qiancheng Internet Finance Research Institute.

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The internet has helped financial platforms attract money from financial novices with little knowledge of the risks involved. Pixabay

The outstanding loan balance stood at 1.2 trillion yuan ($177 billion) at the end of 2018, down 25 percent from a year earlier, according to Diyi Wangdai, a web site that reports on the industry.

P2P lenders are part of a privately run Chinese finance industry the national bank regulator estimated in 2015 had grown to $1.5 trillion.

The internet has helped financial platforms attract money from financial novices with little knowledge of the risks involved.

Many lend to factories and retailers or invest in restaurants, car washes and other businesses. But inexperience and poor risk control means a downturn in business conditions can bankrupt them.

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Finance as a whole has come under tougher scrutiny after a 2015 plunge in stock prices led to accusations of insider trading and other offenses.

In one of China’s biggest financial scams, authorities say depositors lost 50 billion yuan ($7.7 billion) in online lender Ezubo before it was seized by regulators in 2015.

The founder and his brother were sentenced to life in prison in 2017. (VOA)

Next Story

Italy, China Sign Pact To Strengthen Economic Ties

Italy's involvement gives China a crucial inroad into Western Europe and a symbolic boost in its economic tug-of-war with Washington.

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China
Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte shake their hands following the signing of a memorandum in support of Beijing's "Belt and Road" initiative, at Rome's Villa Madama, March 23, 2019. VOA

Italy has signed a memorandum of understanding with China in support of Beijing’s “Belt and Road” initiative, which aims to weave a network of ports, bridges and power plants linking China with Africa, Europe and beyond.

Premier Giuseppe Conte and Chinese President Xi Jinping shook hands during a ceremony in Rome on Saturday, after 29 separate sections of the memorandum were signed by members of both governments.

 

 

With the memorandum, Italy becomes the first member of the Group of Seven major economies that includes the United States, to join Belt and Road, following Portugal’s embrace of the initiative in December.

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Italy’s involvement gives China a crucial inroad into Western Europe and a symbolic boost in its economic tug-of-war with Washington. (VOA)