China orders arrest of ex-Bright Food chair on suspicion of graft

Businessman Wang Zongnan attending a meeting in Shanghai on July 30, 2012. Chinese prosecutors have ordered the arrest of Wang, the former chairman of state-owned Bright Food Group Co Ltd on suspicion of bribe-taking and embezzling public funds.
Businessman Wang Zongnan attending a meeting in Shanghai on July 30, 2012. Chinese prosecutors have ordered the arrest of Wang, the former chairman of state-owned Bright Food Group Co Ltd on suspicion of bribe-taking and embezzling public funds. -- PHOTO: AFP

SHANGHAI (REUTERS) - Chinese prosecutors have ordered the arrest of the former chairman of state-owned Bright Food Group Co Ltd on suspicion of bribe-taking and embezzling public funds.

The Shanghai Municipal People's Prosecution Service in a statement late on Monday said the allegations against Wang Zongnan related to his time at state-owned companies Shanghai Friendship Group and Lianhua Supermarket Holdings Co Ltd .

Wang was general manager at Shanghai Friendship Group and then at Lianhua Supermarket before becoming chairman at Bright Food in 2006 until his resignation for health reasons in 2013.

While chairman, Wang helped put one of China's biggest food corporations on the global stage with several acquisitions, including a deal for the majority of Britain's Weetabix which valued the cereal maker at US$1.94 billion (S$2.43 billion).

Under Wang, Bright Food also bought into Australia's Manassen Foods and New Zealand's Synlait Milk Ltd.

Wang's arrest order is the latest incident in a government anti-corruption campaign that has embroiled several senior state officials including a former security chief, and that has recently extended to executives at major state companies.

Wang could not be reached for comment. Shanghai Friendship could not be reached for comment. Bright Food and Lianhua Supermarket declined to comment.