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Old Saigon Echo website
from 2008 - 2012
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Director: Bai An Tran, Ph.D.

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Vietnamese woman linked to downfall of China's top officials

The story of Ms Li Wei, 48, has been making headlines in China.

Li was born in Vietnam with a mixed French-Vietnamese background. At the age of seven she was brought to Honghe county in China's southern Yunnan province along the Sino-Vietnamese border as a refugee searching for a better life.vietwoman li wei

She began her career peddling tobacco products, before marrying a top official at the local tobacco bureau.

Influential Chinese business magazine Caijing ran a 14-page feature on how Ms Li had used her husband's networks to get close to top officials in Yunnan, China, before moving on to acquire more powerful friends across the nation.

Li is described as being an attractive, fair-skinned woman, "with an alluring dress sense".

According to media reports, Ms Li managed to gain access to former Yunnan governor Li Jiating, who became her lover.

She helped him get resident status for his son in Hong Kong in exchange for tobacco export quotas. The governor narrowly escaped the death sentence in 2003 for taking more than S$39 million in bribes.

Another prime catch was Chen Tonghai, former chairman of the state-owned China Petroleum & Chemical Corp (Sinopec).

She also became the mistress of Du Shichen, Qingdao's former Communist Party secretary.

Investigations by Chinese authorities showed that Li boosted her assets to close to ten billion Chinese yuan (S$1.94b) with extensive operations in tobacco, real estate, petroleum, securities and advertising.

Ms Li was detained for tax evasion in 2006 and had most of her assets confiscated, but was released soon after and is now living in Hong Kong.

However, many of her lovers that she implicated remain in detention, while some have been sentenced to death on corruption and misdemeanour charges.

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