China's LeTV Head Denies Links to Communist Party Corruption Probe

Illustration by: Lars Leetaru
Xi Jinping's graft probe is affecting the entertainment industry

The increasingly complex investigation has major links to the entertainment industry

The head of one of China's leading private entertainment companies, LeTV, has denied links to a high-level corruption investigation in the coal-rich province of Shanxi, although he admitted that an early investor was a company linked to the probe.

LeTV head Jia Yueting, which owns The Expendables co-financier LeVision Pictures, insists that LeTV's success had nothing to do with links to the government in Shanxi.

Earlier this month, LeVision Pictures announced that it was coordinating its assault on the U.S. market with an office in L.A. and would kick off its Hollywood campaign with a $200 million film fund to make blockbusters.

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The entertainment business has been heavily caught up in President Xi Jinping's Communist Party corruption probe, and it is becoming increasingly complex, with some prominent targets.

Internet portal Tencent reported that Huijin Lifang Capital, a major investor in LeTV when the company first started, is owned by a man named Wang Cheng, who has just been put under investigation.

"The success of LeTV is based in no way on government connections," Jia told Tencent. "I want no connection with politics."

Wang Cheng is believed to be a pseudonym of the investor Ling Wancheng, the brother-in-law of Ling Jihua, a key lieutenant of former president Hu Jintao.

Long one of the rising stars of the Communist Party, Ling Jihua was sidelined after his son died after crashing his Ferrari in downtown Beijing.

Ling Jihua's family is currently at the center of the graft probe in Shanxi. The investigation into Ling Jihua is expected to escalate further after the Communist Party leadership wraps up its agenda-setting plenary meeting on Thursday (Oct. 23).

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In Shanxi, almost half of the 13-person party provincial standing committee is currently under investigation for corruption. In China, people are rarely found innocent in investigations into corruption.

Jia has reportedly been in the U.S. for several months, laying the groundwork, while the company's expansion continues. The company recently opened an office in L.A. "Huijin Lifang was just a normal investor. During LeTV’s development it did not provide any substantial benefit to the company," he said.

He also told Tencent: "Even though Huijin Lifang provided us financial support in the early stage of our company, if I were to make the decision again, I would not choose this kind of company as our shareholder." He added that Huijin Lifang is no longer a shareholder of the company.

Huijin Lifang invested $3.27 million in LeTV's predecessor company in 2008 and made a major killing when the company went public in 2010, Tencent said, citing public documents.

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Meanwhile, several top anchors from China’s state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) have been placed under investigation into senior members of the ruling Communist Party elite.

Earlier this year, there were questions surrounding the circumstances of the sudden death of Li Ming, the 47-year-old CEO of Beijing-based film company Galloping Horse. Li died suddenly of a heart attack on Jan. 2, but there was speculation in Hong Kong and mainland Chinese media that he died while he was in police custody under interrogation.

He was linked to a broader investigation into former oil boss and security czar Zhou Yongkang, who was a member of the party's all-powerful Politburo standing committee until 2012, and is the highest-profile victim yet of the crackdown on corruption.

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