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JPMorgan's Payments To China's Elite Being Probed: Report

The Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn, N.Y., are looking into $1.8 million that JPMorgan Chase paid to a two-person firm in China from 2006 to 2008, The New York Times reports.

At issue: The tiny consultancy was run by a young woman using the pseudonym Lily Chang. In fact, she is Wen Ruchun, "the only daughter of Wen Jiabao, who at the time was China's prime minister, with oversight of the economy and its financial institutions," the Times writes.

According to the newspaper, "the relationship pointed to a broader strategy for accumulating influence in China: Put the relatives of the nation's ruling elite on the payroll."

From Shanghai, NPR's Frank Langfitt adds that U.S. officials are looking at JPMorgan's relationship with Wen Ruchun as part of a wider investigation into alleged bribery that focuses "on whether the bank gave jobs and contracts to obtain business deals with government-run companies."

According to the Times, "the bank, which is cooperating with the inquiries and conducting its own internal review, has not been accused of any wrongdoing. ... A spokesman for JPMorgan declined to comment."

"Efforts to reach Ms. Wen and other members of her family were unsuccessful," it adds.

Wen Jibao was China's premier from 2003 until early this year. Last year, the Times reported that his family had amassed $2.7 billion in assets.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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