Ex-chief of China’s firm sentenced to death in $260m corruption, bigamy case

Published January 6, 2021
This handout photo taken in August 2020 shows Lai Xiaomin (C), former chairman of China Huarong Asset Management Co., standing during his trial at the Second Intermediate People’s Court in Tianjin. — AFP
This handout photo taken in August 2020 shows Lai Xiaomin (C), former chairman of China Huarong Asset Management Co., standing during his trial at the Second Intermediate People’s Court in Tianjin. — AFP

BEIJING: The former chairman of one of China’s largest state-controlled asset management firms was sentenced to death on Tuesday for soliciting $260 million in bribes, corruption and also bigamy.

Lai Xiaomin, a former Communist Party member, gave a detailed televised confession on state broadcaster CCTV last January, which showed footage of safes and cabinets stuffed with cash in a Beijing apartment allegedly belonging to him.

Lai had abused his position in attempting to obtain the vast sum, a court in the northern city of Tianjin said, describing the bribes as “extremely large” and labelling the circumstances “particularly serious”.

He had shown “extreme malicious intent,” the court ruling added.

Lai Xiaomin confessed to his crimes on CCTV, which showed footage of cabinets stuffed with cash in his Beijing apartment

The former chairman of the Hong Kong-listed China Huarong Asset Management Co. — a distressed debt group — was also found guilty of bigamy after living with a woman “as man and wife for long periods” outside of his marriage and fathering illegitimate children.

Huarong is one of four companies set up in 1999 to help clean up bad debt piles choking China’s banking system, and the company later expanded into investment, loan and property businesses.

Lai’s downfall began in April 2018 as investigators removed him from his job and stripped him of his party position.

He was also alleged to have used his position to embezzle over 25 million yuan ($3.8 million) in public funds between 2009 and 2018.

During his TV confession, Lai said he “did not spend a single penny, and just kept it there... I did not dare to spend it”. He had referred to the apartment where he kept the money as the “supermarket”, given his regular visits there to deposit cash.

Luxury cars, gold bars

CCTV showed luxury cars and gold bars reportedly accepted as bribes by Lai, who worked in the central bank and the China Banking Regulatory Commission prior to his leadership roles in Huarong.

The channel often broadcasts interviews with suspects admitting to crimes before they have appeared in court — a practice that has long been condemned by lawyers and rights organisations as forcing confessions under duress.

The court said Lai would have all personal assets confiscated and be stripped of his political rights.

Photos published by the court showed Lai standing up and facing the judge to be sentenced, flanked by two police officers wearing face masks.

The sentencing brings an end to one of the country’s biggest financial crime cases, and comes as Beijing takes an increasingly tough stance on corporate wrongdoing.

Critics say the wide-ranging anti-corruption campaign launched under President Xi Jinping has also served as a way to target his opponents and those of the Communist Party leadership.

Since Xi came to power, many high ranking officials have been jailed, although only one is known to have been executed — Zhao Liping, who was convicted of homicide in 2016. China keeps data on its use of the death penalty secret.

Published in Dawn, January 6th, 2021

Opinion

Farewell Roosevelt Hotel
21 Jan 2021

Farewell Roosevelt Hotel

It is worth noting that massive plans have been upended and assets are now on the verge of being seized.
A horned dilemma
21 Jan 2021

A horned dilemma

Trump would rather ‘reign in Hell, than serve in Heav’n’.
Violence & Afghan peace talks
Updated 20 Jan 2021

Violence & Afghan peace talks

Many of those killed in recent weeks have actively been campaigning against rampant violence and rising human rights violations

Editorial

21 Jan 2021

Agosta kickbacks trial

A POLITICALLY significant trial opened in Paris yesterday. Former French prime minister Edouard Balladur is in the...
21 Jan 2021

Indian media scandal

IT is best if the fourth estate and the government maintain a healthy distance, because when members of the media ...
21 Jan 2021

Rising food prices

FOOD inflation continues to challenge the resolve of the government to control the prices of essential kitchen items...
Updated 20 Jan 2021

Broadsheet judgement

There are plenty of skeletons in the Broadsheet cupboard and they must be brought out into the open.
20 Jan 2021

Unequal justice

IT seems no one wants to testify against former SSP Malir, Rao Anwar. At least five prosecution witnesses, all ...
20 Jan 2021

Schools reopening

THE disruptive impact of Covid-19 on education will be felt for years to come. For countries like Pakistan, where...