Senior Nomura Banker Barred From Exiting China, FT Says

(Bloomberg) — A senior banker at Nomura Holdings Inc. has been barred from leaving China in a move connected to a long-running investigation of a top dealmaker in the country, the Financial Times reported.

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Charles Wang Zhonghe, who is chair of investment banking for China at the Hong Kong arm of the Japanese bank, has not been detained and is only restricted from exiting China, the newspaper reported, citing people familiar with the matter it didn’t identify. Nomura declined to comment and Wang didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment, the FT said. A Nomura spokesperson declined to comment to Bloomberg News.

“I am not aware of what you mention,” Wang Wenbin, a spokesman at the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Monday. “I want to reiterate that China is committed to providing a market-orientated, law-based and internationalized and sound business environment to companies operating in China.”

The travel restriction is linked to Wang’s time at Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd., where he worked before joining Nomura in 2018, according to the report. While at ICBC he overlapped with Cong Lin, a former executive at China Renaissance Holdings Ltd. who was summoned by regulators a year ago and has since been detained, the newspaper said.

Cong left ICBC to join China Renaissance — a local investment bank founded by Bao Fan — in 2017 after playing an important role in a strategic partnership between the firms, the FT reported. Bao has been detained since early this year.

Wang was deputy CEO at ICBC from 2011 to 2016 and before that worked at Deutsche Bank AG, according to his LinkedIn profile. He was educated in Texas as well as China.

The investment climate in China has become increasingly fraught as the economy struggles and President Xi Jinping has cracked down on broad swathes of the private sector over the past few years. The finance industry has been rocked by a clampdown on alleged corruption that started in late 2021 and has shown no sign of abating. The dragnet has become the most extensive ever and dovetails with a broader government shakeup as Xi embarked on a third term in office.

In August, China Renaissance said Bao Fan was still “cooperating” in an unspecified investigation, six months after the once high-flying banker’s sudden disappearance sent shockwaves through the country’s financial services sector.

In China, the abrupt absence of a senior executive has come to signal a state crackdown or investigation. In several cases, the person is said to be assisting with graft probes. Publicly listed companies tend to report they have lost contact with the executive and need to make their own inquiries into what happened within the country’s opaque legal system.

–With assistance from Takashi Nakamichi, Lucille Liu and James Mayger.

(Adds comment from Ministry of Foreign Affairs in third paragraph.)

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