Chinese-Canadian tycoon Xiao Jianhua was sentenced Friday to 13 years in prison, more than five years after the billionaire was abducted from a hotel room in Hong Kong and taken to mainland China.
Xiao and his company Tomorrow Holdings were convicted of crimes involving tens of billions of dollars, including illegally absorbing public deposits, betraying the use of entrusted property, illegal use of funds and bribery, the Shanghai First Intermediate Court said in a statement.
The court also fined Xiao 6.5 million yuan ($950,000) and Tomorrow Holdings 55 billion yuan ($8.1 billion).
“The criminal acts of Tomorrow Holdings and Xiao Jianhua seriously damaged the financial management order, seriously endangered the country’s financial security, seriously infringed on the integrity of the state staff, and should be severely punished according to law,” the court said.
But it added that Xiao and Tomorrow Holdings have “turned themselves in, confessed their crimes and helped with the recovery of assets,” and thus can receive a more lenient punishment.
Xiao was one of China’s richest men and controlled the Tomorrow Group, a massive holding company with stakes in banks, insurers and property developers. According to Hurun, which analyzes Chinese wealth, Xiao had a net worth of $6 billion and ranked 32nd on its 2016 rich list, a league table equivalent to the Forbes list.
The court said Xiao and Tomorrow Holdings gave shares, real estate, cash and other assets to government officials worth around $100 million over 20 years to 2021.
Xiao, known for his close connections to some of China’s most powerful political families, was seized in 2017 by Chinese security agents from his room at the Four Seasons hotel in Hong Kong and taken to mainland China.
A person familiar with the abduction told CNN there was a small scuffle at the hotel between two dozen Chinese security officials and Xiao’s own security detail, which typically numbered about eight bodyguards per shift. The source asked to remain anonymous because of the politically sensitive nature of the case. Xiao has not been seen in public since the incident.
Chinese billionaire seized from Hong Kong hotel
Xiao was one of a number of Chinese tycoons who had moved to Hong Kong and taken up residence in private apartments at the 5-star Four Seasons hotel during Xi’s crackdown on corporate excess.
Xiao’s disappearance sent shockwaves through Hong Kong’s elite business community, where it was widely interpreted as a signal the city was no longer beyond the reach of the mainland’s security apparatus.
Last month, the Canadian Embassy in Beijing told CNN the trial of Xiao, a Canadian citizen, would take place without consular access. “Canada made several requests to attend the trial proceedings of Canadian citizen, Mr. Xiao Jianhua. Our attendance was denied by Chinese authorities,” the embassy said.
A spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry said Friday that Xiao has Chinese citizenship, and as China does not recognize dual citizenship, Xiao doesn’t have the right to another country’s consular protection.