China jails Canadian tycoon for 13 years for financial crimes

BEIJING — A Chinese-Canadian tycoon who disappeared from Hong Kong in 2017 was sentenced to 13 years in prison on Friday for a series of multi-billion dollar financial crimes and his company was fined $8.1 billion dollars, a court heard.

Xiao Jianhua was found guilty of embezzling billions of dollars in deposits with banks and insurers controlled by his Tomorrow Group and offering bribes to officials, the Intermediate People’s Court has heard. °1 from Shanghai on his social media account.

Xiao was fined 6.5 million yuan ($950,000) and his company was fined 55 billion yuan ($8.1 billion), the court heard.

Xiao was last seen in a Hong Kong hotel in January 2017 and was reportedly taken to the mainland by Chinese authorities. News reports later said he was being investigated by anti-corruption authorities, but no details were released.

The Canadian government said diplomats were barred from attending his July 5 trial.

Xiao was considered a Chinese citizen, which meant he was barred from seeing Canadian diplomats under a consular treaty between the two governments, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said. .

This suggested that Xiao may have entered the mainland using a Chinese travel document instead of his Canadian passport. Beijing has in other cases denied diplomats access to citizens of their country who entered using Chinese identity documents.

“China does not recognize Chinese citizens with dual nationality. Xiao Jianhua has Chinese nationality,” Wang said. “He does not enjoy the right to consular protection from other countries.”

The Canadian Embassy in Beijing has sent a request for comment to the Canadian government in Ottawa.

Tomorrow Group has been linked to a series of anti-corruption lawsuits and seizures of financial companies by regulators.

Friday’s announcement says Xiao and Tomorrow Group were found guilty of improperly taking more than 311.6 billion yuan ($46 billion) from the public and misusing entrusted property and money totaling 148 .6 billion yuan ($21.8 billion).

Xiao disappeared amid a wave of lawsuits against Chinese businessmen accused of misconduct.

This fueled speculation that the ruling Communist Party could abduct people outside the mainland. Hong Kong then banned Chinese police from operating in the former British colony, which has a separate legal system.

Since then, Beijing has tightened control over Hong Kong, sparking complaints that it is violating the autonomy promised when the territory returned to China in 1997. The Communist Party imposed a national security law on Hong Kong in 2020 and imprisoned pro-democracy activists.

Hong Kong police investigated Xiao’s disappearance and said he had crossed the border into the mainland. An advertisement in the Ming Pao newspaper in Xiao’s name the same week denied that he had been abducted against his will.

At the time of his disappearance, Xiao was worth nearly $6 billion, making him the 32nd richest person in China, according to the Hurun Report, which tracks the country’s wealthy.

In 2020, regulators seized nine companies controlled by Xiao.

This included four insurers, two securities companies, two trust companies and a company involved in financial futures. Business magazine Caixin reported at the time that the seized assets amounted to nearly one billion yuan ($150 million).

A retired banking regulator, Xue Jining, has admitted receiving 400 million yuan ($62 million) in bribes in a corruption case linked to Baoshang Bank Ltd. in the northern region of Inner Mongolia, which regulators seized at Tomorrow in 2019.