China: Canadian magnate sentenced to 13 years in prison for corruption

China: Canadian tycoon sentenced to 13 years in prison for corruption

Xiao Jianhua speaking with reporters in Hong Kong, December 2013 (archive)

Chinese-Canadian tycoon Xiao Jianhua , once reputedly close to top communist leaders, was sentenced in China to 13 years in prison on Friday for fraud.

Xiao Jianhua was one of the country's richest men at the time and the founder of the Tomorrow conglomerate, an empire with diverse interests including banking, real estate and insurance.

Until his disappearance, Mr. Xiao lived in Hong Kong in an apartment in a multi-star hotel, the Four Seasons, which had the reputation of being a haven for Chinese business tycoons.

According to press reports at the time, the billionaire was abducted at the end of January 2017 by Beijing agents, in defiance of Hong Kong laws which then prohibited Chinese police from operating in the semi-colonial territory. autonomous.

The case had caused a stir in the former British colony, which has a legal framework distinct from that in force in Mainland China.

Since Mr. Xiao's disappearance, little information had leaked out and the Chinese authorities remained silent on the matter.

The Canadian Embassy in Beijing had nevertheless confirmed last month the opening of a trial, but without specifying the charges against its national.

No diplomat had been authorized to the hearing.

China does not recognize dual nationality, a spokesman for Chinese diplomacy, Wang Wenbin, said on Friday.

Therefore, Mr. Xiao does not benefit from the right to consular protection, he explained during a daily press briefing.

On Friday, justice condemned the businessman to 13 years in prison.

He was found guilty of embezzlement of public funds, illegal use of funds and corruption , said in a press release the Intermediate People's Court number one of Shanghai where the businessman was tried.

Xiao Jianhua is also fined 6.5 million yuan (1.3 million Canadian dollars).

Conglomerate Tomorrow is ordered to pay some 55 billion yuan (10.5 billion Canadian dollars).

According to press reports, the tycoon had close ties with senior Communist Party (CCP) leaders. ) in power in China.

The businessman may have been a victim of President Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign which, according to his critics, is also used to target his political opponents and their supporters.

The Xiao Jianhua case recalls the disappearance in 2015 of five Hong Kong booksellers known for publishing books with salacious content on the Chinese political class.

All had vanished to redo surface in mainland China, in the hands of the authorities.

One ​​of them, Lam Wing-kee, had been allowed to return to Hong Kong to retrieve the list customers of his bookstore and return to China. But he had instead summoned the press to deliver explosive revelations about what had happened to him.

From a poor background, Xiao Jianhua, after studying at the prestigious Peking University, had started by selling computers.

According to the Hurun ranking of Chinese billionaires, the magnate's fortune was estimated at some six billion dollars in 2017, the year of his disappearance.

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