President of China's solar giant Wuxi Suntech 'assisting' inquiry

SHANGHAI (AFP) - The new president of Chinese solar giant Wuxi Suntech Power is "assisting an inquiry" at Customs' request, its parent company said on Tuesday (April 12) after reports that he had gone missing.

Mr Tang Jun was only person from the company helping the investigation and the issue being probed remained unknown, a spokesman for Suntech's parent Shunfeng International Clean Energy (SFCE) told AFP, adding that the firm's operations were "all normal".

Mr Tang is the latest senior Chinese businessman to drop out of circulation for unclear reasons.

In January, one of China's most prominent clothing firms, Metersbonwe, announced its chairman Zhou Chengjian had returned to work, a week after saying he had disappeared amid speculation that he had been caught up in an insider trading investigation.

Weeks earlier, Mr Guo Guangchang - chairman of Fosun, one of the country's biggest private-sector conglomerates - had vanished from public view in connection with an investigation by authorities, before re-emerging.

Suntech Power was once the world's largest solar panel producer, at a time when Chinese manufacturers were flooding the global market with cheap products, causing trade disputes with the European Union and the United States.

The firm collapsed in 2013 after it announced its main Chinese unit Wuxi Suntech would seek bankruptcy and restructuring, resulting in a bond default in the US worth over half a billion dollars.

The company later said it would receive a US$150 million (S$202 million) local government bailout and it was eventually bought by Hong Kong-listed Shunfeng for 3 billion yuan (S$625 million).

China Business News reported on Tuesday that Mr Tang had only taken up his position as president a few months ago and the inquiry could be linked to issues at his previous firm.