Bob Pickard, a Canadian communications consultant who recently quit his position at the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), says his personal secretary spied on him on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Mr. Pickard became AIIB director general of communications in the spring of 2022 and left the role in June. Initially, he believed there were misunderstandings about the Beijing-led investment bank. However, his own experience at work confirmed suspicions the bank was manipulated by the authorities to further Beijing’s geopolitical ambitions.
“What I found after a very little while is that there’s a lot of truth behind the stereotype,” he said in a recent interview with the Globe and Mail.
The AIIB, founded in 2016, claims its primary purpose is to coordinate development projects that benefit the Asia region. Countries like Japan and the United States, however, have opted out of the institution for fear the bank may be used to advance China’s political objectives. Despite these warnings, Canada joined the 102-member multilateral institution in March 2018. Although the People’s Republic of China is officially just one of the members, its influence and intentions have raised concerns.
Mr. Pickard was surprised to discover his assigned personal assistant at the bank was a member of the Chinese Communist Party. This assistant had been secretly spying on him and his department and reporting to another CCP member in the office of the bank’s president, Jin Liqun, the Globe reported.
“It was a shadow reporting structure,” he said.
Upon joining the bank, Mr. Pickard said he was advised by his senior colleagues to exercise caution around CCP members. He was instructed to be mindful of his speech in their presence and to avoid conflicts, given their influence within the bank held more weight than that of other individuals.
In June, Mr. Pickard took to social media regarding his departure from AIIB. He had previously told Reuters he had been advised to leave China after resigning, though he didn’t explain who gave him this advice. He has now returned to Canada and has been debriefed by the finance department. He has also been scheduled to meet with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service in the upcoming weeks, according to the Globe.
Hours after Mr. Pickard declared his exit from AIIB, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland announced that Ottawa was suspending its relationship with the institution while the government investigates the “serious concerns” Mr. Pickard raised.
“China, as the world’s second largest economy, must necessarily play a role in addressing common global challenges,” Ms. Freeland said in a statement released June 14. “However, as the world’s democracies work to de-risk our economies by limiting our strategic vulnerabilities to authoritarian regimes, we must likewise be clear about the means through which these regimes exercise their influence around the world.”
In an internal review, published July 7, the AIIB rejected allegations made by Mr. Pickard, saying there is “no evidence of undue influence on decisions” from its board of directors or management.