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Former Maotai General Manager Under Investigation
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Qiao Hong, former general manager of Shanghai-listed Kweichow Moutai Co. Ltd, maker of Maotai drink- the famous Chinese liquor known as "baijiu" - is under investigation for allegedly taking bribes, local authorities confirmed Friday.


The decision to probe Qiao was made on Friday by the Standing Committee of the People's Congress of southwest China's Guizhou Province, the local legislative body, said a spokesman with the Communist Party of China (CPC) Guizhou Provincial Commission for Discipline Inspection.  


Qiao is suspected of taking bribes from sponsors during the 2002 World Cup in the Republic of Korea, the spokesman told Xinhua. Qiao organized a trip to the World Cup for outstanding salespeople and other excellent company employees.


No specific monetary figures were cited.


Qiao, 54, who previously served as deputy director of the Guizhou Provincial Bureau of Light Industry, was appointed general manager of Maotai in August 2000.


Qiao left the company to take up a position as deputy director of the Guizhou Provincial Committee of State Assets Administration on May 11, and has been cooperating with authorities to investigate his problems since early May, the spokesman said.


"Local authorities transferred Qiao in order to reduce the impact on the listed company during the investigation," he said.


"Government authorities are naturally concerned about Maotai and the stock market, and wish to protect the interests of stock investors," he said.


Trading in Maotai shares was suspended unexpectedly on the Shanghai Stock Exchange on May 10, amid speculations that Qiao had been placed under investigation. The company's share price fell by 4.7 percent on May 9, a day before the suspension.


Trading resumed at 10:30 AM on May 14 -- an hour later than usual, reopening at 93.6 yuan (US$12.08) and reaching a high of 100 yuan (US$12.94), a 6.41 percent rise. The share price has remained stable since then.


The share price of Maotai dropped by 0.6 percent on Friday to 98.43 yuan (US$12.3).


A spokesman with the company said Friday that Maotai is a well-managed, mature state-owned company and its business will not be affected by such factors as job changes among senior executives.


"The company is operating and producing normally," he said.


(Xinhua News Agency May 19, 2007)

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