When President Xi Jinping launched his anti-corruption drive last year by declaring war on “tigers and flies” few could have imagined that he was also helping Internet magnate Jack Ma to launch a whole new ecommerce initiative.
Now Ma’s Taobao.com, the consumer ecommerce site belonging to his Alibaba group has developed a new site, sf.taobao.com, entirely devoted to helping China’s courts to liquidate seized assets, many of them the spoils of Xi’s anti-corruption purge. For seekers of distressed real estate assets, the site may become a major avenue for picking up the apartments, offices and other properties taken away from fallen officials.
As of today, sf.taobao.com lists more than 41,000 built assets for sale.
Liquidating Shops, Homes and Even Industrial Parks
Among the items recently sold on the website are a 345 square metre apartment in Wenzhou that fetched RMB 10.7 million. If you feel bad about missing out on that deal, still available are an unfinished retail project in Jiaxing, Zhejiang for RMB 136 million, an industrial facility in Xiamen for RMB 133 million, and even an entire industrial park in Henan for RMB 918 million.
Given the taste that China’s corrupt officials have for real estate, the site also contains 750 plots of land for sale, and 14 infrastructure projects. The site extends beyond real estate, however, and offers more than 6000 seized cars ranging from the usual Audis and Mercedes to heavy trucks.
To be sure, many of these assets are being liquidated as much because of the wave of economic hardship that has befallen many real estate companies during the current downturn, but according to an account today in the Wall Street Journal, there are also a number of assets available that can be tied directly to fallen officials.
Along with a purple Bentley and some Mercedes being sold by courts, Taobao also offers 60 apartments in a building that belonged to Wang Meizhi, a financier from the midsize eastern city of Xuzhou, who just a few years ago dressed in fur and hobnobbed at the party’s highest levels.
The story by James Areddy relates how Ms Wang’s company in 2011 was graced by a visit by then Politburo member Zhou Yongkang. Zhou has now officially been accused of abusing his position for personal gain, and Wang has disappeared with no clear indication of her fate
Official Investigations Tied to Dirty Real Estate Deals
While the current anti-corruption campaign has brought down scores of officials in many provinces, one common theme that emerges is the involvement of illicit real estate deals in many of the cases.
Zhou Yongkang’s fall involved a salvo of allegations regarding trading of political influence for real estate assets, especially against the former security chief’s son, Zhou Bin.
In July Guangzhou Party Secretary Wan Qingliang became one of the highest level Chinese officials to lose his job after allegations emerged of a history of dirty real estate deals.
A number of more minor players in China’s political system were also charged with corruption involving property deals, including a trio of Inner Mongolian officials who had accumulated vast real estate holdings.
Now all of these former officials, from the Politburo on down, may be providing new listings for Jack Ma’s Taobao, and perhaps the fees collected on these asset auctions can help to bolster the see-sawing stock of his Alibaba group, which premiered on the New York Stock Exchange last month.
Taobao’s Confiscated Real Estate in Pictures