BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese-Canadian billionaire Xiao Jianhua, who went missing in Hong Kong five years ago, was due to go on trial in China on Monday, the Canadian embassy in Beijing said.
China-born Xiao, known to have links to China’s Communist Party elite, has not been seen in public since 2017 after he was investigated amid a state-led conglomerate crackdown. The specifics of the probe haven’t been disclosed by officials.
“Global Affairs Canada, our home office, is aware that a trial in the case of Canadian citizen Mr. Xiao Jianhua will take place today,” a Canadian Embassy official told Reuters over the phone in a readout of a statement from Ottawa.
“Canadian consular officials are monitoring this case closely, providing consular services to his family and continue to press for consular access.”
Xiao was ranked 32nd on the 2016 Hurun China rich list, China’s equivalent of the Forbes list, with an estimated net worth of $5.97 billion at the time.
At the centre of Xiao’s empire is the financial group Tomorrow Holdings Co.
In July 2020, nine of the group’s related institutions were seized by Chinese regulators as part of a crackdown on risks posed by financial conglomerates.
In 2021, regulators extended the one-year take-over period of the nine financial enterprises by another year to “further promote risk disposal work and defuse financial risks.”
The extended custody is set to end on July 16.
The seizures were preceded by a takeover of Baoshang Bank in 2019, a lender once controlled by Tomorrow, by regulators, citing severe credit risks.
The lender, which had operated nationwide, was revamped into a much smaller lender back in its home region of Inner Mongolia in northern China.
In recent years, a number of executives at big Chinese companies have been subject to investigation or prosecution amid a broader crackdown on corruption spearheaded by President Xi Jinping that has also ensnared politicians and bankers.
Among those who have fallen from grace was Jiang Jiemin, former head of China National Petroleum Corp, who was sentenced to 16 years for bribery and abuse of power in 2015.
In 2017, Ai Baojun, a former chairman of Baoshan Iron and Steel who had gone on to become vice mayor of Shanghai, was sentenced to 17 years in jail for bribery and graft.
(Reporting by Martin Quin Pollard in Beijing and Meg Shen in Hong Kong; writing by Ryan Woo; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)