Chinese-Canadian tycoon Xiao Jianhua, who mysteriously disappeared from a Hong Kong hotel in 2017, has been sentenced to 13 years in prison for fraud, a Chinese court announced on Friday.
Xiao was one of the richest men in China at the time of his arrest, with a fortune valued at $6 billion. His conglomerate, Tomorrow, was a diversified group with interests in sectors such as banking, insurance and construction.
Until his disappearance, Xiao lived in Hong Kong in an apartment in the Four Seasons hotel, then considered a haven for Chinese tycoons.
The businessman was found guilty of “embezzlement of public resources and illegal use of funds,” Shanghai No. 1 Court said in a statement.
He will also have to pay a fine of 6.5 million yuan ($950,000).
The Tomorrow conglomerate was ordered to pay nearly 55 billion yuan ($8.08 billion).
The disappearance of the businessman, considered close to several leaders of the Chinese communist regime, had a major impact five years ago in the former British colony, which has a legal framework different from that from mainland China.
According to news reports, the businessman was captured in January 2017 by agents from Beijing, when mainland Chinese authorities were barred from operating in the semi-autonomous territory.
The businessman may have been a victim of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign, which critics say was used to attack his political rivals.
Since the disappearance of the tycoon, the Chinese authorities have remained silent on the case, until last month, the Canadian Embassy in Beijing confirmed the opening of the file, without specifying the charges against Xiao. No Canadian diplomats were allowed to attend the trial.
“China does not recognize dual citizenship,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Friday.
“Therefore, Xiao Jianhua does not enjoy the right to consular protection,” he added.
The businessman’s capture has raised fears that other Hong Kongers will be forcibly taken to mainland China, where justice is largely subordinated to the Chinese Communist Party.
Fear fueled large pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in 2019.
© Agence France-Presse
“Total troublemaker. Alcohol aficionado. Social media specialist. Friendly travel nerd.”