The communications chief of the multilateral lender that is China’s answer to the World Bank has resigned, claiming the institution is run by communist party members who “operate like an internal secret police”.
Bob Pickard, the Canadian director-general of communications for the Beijing-headquartered Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, said he flew to Tokyo on Wednesday because he feared for his safety after raising concerns about what he believes was party infiltration. with the lender.
The controversy, which highlights tensions in multilateral institutions trying to bridge the growing divide between China and the west, erupted after Pickard wrote on Twitter that “as a patriotic Canadian” his only course was to resign and leave Beijing.
“These people are like an invisible government within the bank and I can’t be part of that,” Pickard told the Financial Times from Tokyo. “I don’t want to be a useful idiot.”
The AIIB said in a statement that Pickard’s “recent public comments and characterization of the Bank are unfounded and disappointing.”
“We are proud of our multilateral mission and have a diverse international team representing 65 different nationalities and members at AIIB, serving our 106 members worldwide, many of whom have been with us since our inception in 2016,” said the AIIB.
The allegations challenge the efforts of the AIIB and its president, former Chinese Vice Finance Minister Jin Liqun, to present the bank as an independently managed multilateral institution.
While China is the largest shareholder with 26.6 percent of voting rights, the bank’s 106 members include numerous Western countries, including Canada, the UK, Italy and France.
The bank froze its transactions with Russia at the outbreak of war in Ukraine and has an AAA credit rating, allowing it to raise capital at a very low cost.
In an internal memo viewed by the FT, Jin told staff that management was aware of Pickard’s allegations and was “handling the situation.”
“We recognize the uncertainty these comments may cause for all of us who work at the AIIB. We hope you’ll join us in wishing Bob well for the future,’ Jin said.
Three people familiar with the case questioned Pickard’s allegations, saying they had seen no evidence to support his claims that the party ran the bank.
Pickard said he had expressed his concerns about party influence in writing twice in the past month.
Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary of the UK Treasury from 2010 to 2015, serves as the AIIB’s Vice President of “Policy and Strategy”. He could not be reached for comment.
Pickard said he noticed that all branches of the bank, from the president’s office, contained members of the Chinese Communist Party, who quietly ran things in a way that undermined its claims of transparency.
“Internally, I have expressed my concerns about the influence of the CCP. When you work there for a while you realize that this is really the hidden hand internally of the bank,” he said.
International commercial institutions have come under fire for allowing the Chinese Communist Party to operate within them. The FT revealed last year that HSBC was the first foreign lender to install a Chinese Communist Party committee in its mainland subsidiary.
Under Chinese law, companies with three or more CCP members must have an organization “to carry out party activities.”
Pickard said he resigned in writing two days ago but decided it was unsafe to remain in China, which has jailed Canadian citizens on charges described by Ottawa as “arbitrary.”
The AIIB was founded in 2016 as a China-led alternative to Bretton Woods multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF.