Xiao Jianhua, Chinese-Canadian billionaire, sentenced to 13 years in prison in Shanghai

A Chinese-Canadian tycoon who disappeared from Hong Kong in 2017 was sentenced to 13 years in prison on Friday for a series of multibillion-dollar financial crimes and his company fined 10, $5 billion, a court announced.

Xiao Jianhua was found guilty of misusing billions of dollars in deposits from banks and insurance companies controlled by his Tomorrow Group and giving bribes to officials, Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court said on his social media account.

Xiao was fined 6.5 million yuan (Cdn 1.24 million) and his company was fined 55 billion yuan (Cdn 10.5 billion), the court said.

Xiao was last seen at a hotel in Hong Kong in January 2017 and is believed to have been brought back to the mainland by Chinese authorities. Subsequent reports said he was being investigated by anti-graft authorities, but no details were released.

Beijing denies consular access

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

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Xiao is considered a Chinese citizen, which means he is not entitled to meet Canadian diplomats under a consular treaty between the two governments.

That suggests Xiao may have entered the mainland on a Chinese passport instead of a Canadian passport. In other cases, Beijing has denied diplomats access to its citizens with Chinese identification documents.

“China does not recognize Chinese citizens with dual citizenship. Xiao Jianhua has Chinese citizenship,” Wang said. “He is not entitled to consular protection of other countries.”

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

Tomorrow Group is involved in a series of anti-corruption prosecutions and confiscation of financial companies by regulators.

The announcement on Friday said Xiao and Tomorrow Group were found guilty of taking more than 311.6 billion yuan ($59 billion) from the public and abusing trust assets and funds totaling 148.6 billion yuan ($28.3 billion).

Xiao disappeared amid a flurry of prosecutions of Chinese businessmen accused of misconduct.

That sparked speculation that the ruling Communist Party may be kidnapping people from outside the mainland. Hong Kong at the time banned Chinese police from operating in the former British colony, which had a separate legal system.

Since then, Beijing has tightened its grip on Hong Kong, prompting complaints that the country is violating the autonomy promised when the territory was returned to China in 1997. The Communist Party has imposed national security legislation in Hong Kong in 2020 and jailed pro-democracy activists.

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

At the time of his disappearance, Xiao was worth nearly $7 billion, making him China’s 32nd richest person, according to the Hurun Report, which reports the country’s wealthy.

In 2020, regulators arrested nine companies controlled by Xiao.

That includes four insurance companies, two securities companies, two trust companies and one financial futures-related company. Business magazine Caixin reported at the time that the property seized was worth nearly 1 billion yuan ($191 million).

A retired bank manager, Xue Jining, admitted to accepting 400 million yuan ($76 million) in bribes in a corruption case involving Baoshang Bank Ltd. in the northern region of Inner Mongolia, which the authorities have detained since tomorrow 2019.

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