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China's former insurance regulator charged with bribery

© AFP/File | Xiang has now been formally charged with bribery and abuse of power

BEIJING (AFP) - 

The former head of China's insurance regulatory body has been formally charged with bribery and abuse of power, prosecutors said on Monday, becoming the most senior financial regulator to be targeted in a continuing crackdown on corruption.

Xiang Junbo, 61, took advantage of his position to amass "an enormous amount of assets" first as a deputy governor of the central bank, then as head of the state-owned Agricultural Bank of China, and finally as chairman of the China Insurance Regulatory Commission, the Supreme People's Procuratorate said in a statement.

Xiang was appointed to the top job at the regulatory commission in 2011.

He was put under investigation in April last year by the Communist Party's anti-graft watchdog for suspected "serious disciplinary violations", a phrase that usually refers to graft.

Xiang, who also served as a member of the central bank's monetary policy committee, was removed from his position immediately after the investigation began.

Xiang's case has been handed over to the prosecutor's office in the eastern city of Changzhou, the statement said.

Xiang's stint as head of the insurance regulator marked a period of rapid growth for the industry as he pushed for the liberalisation of investment rules, which allowed Chinese insurers to invest more of their assets at home and abroad.

But this led to regulatory headaches after several high-profile cases in which insurance companies used their financial holdings to fund risky acquisitions in real estate and unlisted equities.

The China Insurance Regulatory Commission and the China Banking Regulatory Commission was replaced by a banking and insurance regulatory commission after a major restructuring of government agencies in March.

© 2018 AFP