BEIJING, CHINA — The China-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) said Friday there was “no evidence” it was dominated by Beijing’s ruling Communist Party, as it released a review into explosive claims made by a former executive.
Bob Pickard, a former communications chief, resigned from the lender last month, saying it “serves China’s interest” and was “a resource to the geopolitical goals” of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
China’s foreign ministry denied the allegations, saying the bank operated with “openness, meritocracy and transparency”.
The AIIB initially called Pickard’s allegations “baseless and disappointing” but later launched an internal review of his claims.
The bank said Friday the review found “no evidence of undue or improper influence in the decisions taken by the Board of Governors, Board of Directors, and President, or in other aspects of the operation of the Bank”.
The probe concluded that the AIIB “follows the highest standards of multilateral governance” with a structure that “has enabled the Bank to take independent decisions in line with operational policies”.
The review did identify certain recommendations “in response to issues raised during its work”, the bank said, including the need to strengthen pre-recruitment screening processes, grievance mechanisms and corporate culture.
However, there was “no evidence to support or validate (Pickard’s) allegations”, said Alberto Ninio, the AIIB’s general counsel who led the review.
Pickard, a Canadian citizen, accused the bank of directing lending mainly towards countries targeted by Beijing’s massive and controversial Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) at the CCP’s behest.
He described foreign executives on the bank’s board as “window dressing” and said he had left China hurriedly out of concern for his safety.
Inside the bank, “there’s a parallel system, it’s adjacent to the public-decision making structure”, he said.
China launched the AIIB in 2016 as a counterweight to Western-dominated global financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
The project was pushed by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has also thrown his weight behind the BRI, a global trade and infrastructure initiative that has drawn criticism from some Western powers for a perceived lack of transparency.
The AIIB has 106 global members, including Australia, Canada, France and Germany — though Ottawa said it would “immediately halt all government-led activity” at the bank in the wake of Pickard’s comments.
The United States is not an AIIB member.