China’s disgraced insurance regulator pleads guilty to taking US$3 million in bribes

China’s former insurance regulator pleaded guilty in court on Thursday to taking huge bribes, state media reported, a year after he was sacked amid the ruling Communist Party’s campaign to rein in financial risk.

Xiang Junbo, the ex-head of the now defunct China Insurance Regulatory Commission, is the highest-ranking finance official to be snared in President Xi Jinping’s crackdown on graft in the financial industry.

At a court in eastern Jiangsu province, the 61-year-old admitted taking bribes of 19.4 million yuan (US$3 million), Xinhua reported.

The court did not give a date for sentencing.

China takes down insurance regulator, capping a year-long industry shake-out

Xiang was removed from office in April last year during a shake-up of China’s financial sector. He was later put under criminal investigation after being accused of issuing operating licences to favoured insurers.

After taking the helm of the insurance watchdog in 2011, Xiang oversaw rapid growth of the industry, including the liberalisation of investment rules that allowed insurers much greater freedom to use their assets at home and overseas.

China merged its banking and insurance regulators in March in an attempt to resolve existing problems such as overlapping areas of responsibility and cross-regulation.