July 10, 2015 / 2:31 AM / 3 years ago

Former Tencent employees, including Alibaba executive, held in China graft probe

People ride a double bicycle past a logo of The Alibaba Group at the company's headquarters on the outskirts of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province November 10, 2014. REUTERS/Aly Song

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese authorities have detained about half a dozen former employees of Tencent Holdings Ltd, the country’s biggest social network and online media company, as part of a graft investigation following an internal company probe, Tencent said late on Thursday.

Amid a continuing crackdown on corruption by Chinese President Xi Jinping, Tencent said in a statement that “five or six” unidentified people were detained. “An internal investigation brought to light bribery and corruption among some online video employees...The police have been notified and we are waiting for the results,” Tencent said.

A spokesman for rival Alibaba Group Holding Ltd said separately late on Thursday that Patrick Liu, president of the e-commerce giant’s digital entertainment unit and the previous head of Tencent Video, was also taken into custody by the Public Security Bureau.

“We understand Patrick Liu with our digital entertainment unit has been detained by the authorities. This issue is related to his time at Tencent and has nothing to do with Alibaba,” Alibaba spokesman Bob Christie said in an email.

China’s anti-corruption drive has seen officials at various levels of government, as well as company executives - many in the state sector - being taken into custody.

Among high-profile cases in the private sector, the former China head of pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline was charged with bribery in 2014.

Liu and other former members of Tencent’s video business left the company following a leadership reshuffle around 2013, later joining Alibaba.

A Bloomberg reporter first tweeted that Liu had been taken into custody on Thursday.

Reporting by Arathy S Nair in BENGALURU and Paul Carsten in BEIJING; Editing by Stephen Coates and Kenneth Maxwell

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