BEIJING, China - The average American is most familiar with China as a manufacturer of low costs products which make our lives easier and more affordable in these economically challenging times.
From tooth paste, to pet food, from home furnishing, to kitchen appliances, the percentage of Chinese made products sold by U.S. retailers is astoundingly high. There are many reasons for this inequity, but the focus of this article lies elsewhere.
If one were to poll these same consumers about the number of Chinese people ranked on the Forbes’ lists of richest people, most would probably guess none. That is because China is most often depicted as a country which routinely engages in unfair trade practices, currency manipulation, human rights violations, totalitarianism, and the most egregious of all its failings - it is a Communist nation which enslaves and oppresses an estimated population of 1.4 billion.
All of these accusations are true to greater or lesser degrees depending upon who is directly impacted, but what isn’t so well known is the fact that some of the wealthiest individuals in the world now herald from Asia countries. In fact, as of September 2013, Business Insider reported that "dollar billionaires in China has passed 300 for the first time in an annual ranking of wealth in the world's second-largest economy."
One such person is Sichuan mining tycoon Liu Han, 48. A resident of Hong Kong, he is ranked 148th in Forbes' 2012 list of China's richest men, with an estimated fortune of US$855 million.
Mr. Liu first came to the attention of the media when a school building that he funded emerged unscathed during the devastating 2008 earthquake. The quake which measured 8.0 magnitudes and killed 9,300 people could not topple the Liuhan Hope Primary School despite its proximity to the epicenter of the quake which was eight kilometers away in Beichuan.
Because none of the students were hurt, the school which had been constructed a decade earlier became known as “the safest primary school” in China. Shortly after the Sichuan quake, the billionaire donated more than 50 million yuan to charity groups for disaster relief. The move propelled him to greater prominence and, in 2009, he was ranked 16th in the Shanghai-based Hurun Report's China Philanthropy List. (Source: South China Morning Post)
Published: 22 February 2014 (Page 2 of 2)
From that point forward it seemed as if Liu’s efforts to recede back into obscurity were on track. He quietly continued to amass wealth and was in the process of finalizing US$1.4 bn deal to acquire an Australian mining company when in a Shakespearean twist of fate, his younger brother, Liu Wei, 44, was indicted for a murder that allegedly occurred in 2009.
As is usually the case, when one shines a light into darkness many things can be revealed, and in this case because Liu harbored his brother who was a fugitive, he found himself the subject of investigation. During the course of background investigation of the philanthropist, authorities determined that his wealth may have been derived through more nefarious enterprises.
On Thursday night 20 February 2014, the China state media, Xinhua, alleged that not only was Wei a murderer, but Liu, who has since been placed under house arrest by Beijing police for harboring his fugitive brother; was in fact a puppet master implicated in numerous mafia-style gang attacks that resulted in at least nine deaths.
As the investigation progressed, according to South China Morning Post, Hubei police searched and seized from Liu’s residence three hand grenades, more than 20 guns and over 600 bullets. They subsequently announced the initial findings of their investigations and declared that the great philanthropist was in fact a high-ranking member of the Triads.
Most are familiar with the Triads as a Chinese equivalent of the Mafia. It is a transnational organized crime organizations based in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and also in countries with significant Chinese populations, such as the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Siam (now Thailand), Japan, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. (Source: Wikipedia)
As with other organized crime entities, the Triads are also involved in Contract killing, Prostitution, Counterfeiting, Health care fraud, drug trafficking, human trafficking, extortion, and murder. Xinhua announced that Liu, was in fact the boss of a criminal enterprise that consisted of 35 individuals who were responsible for managing the day-to-day criminal affairs of his organization.
Like many wealthy American criminals, Liu is comfortably ensconced in his residence under house arrest as the investigation progresses. However, if he is convicted of the 15 charges of murder, bribery, weapons charges, money laundering, gambling, and other unspecified crimes he could face death.
- China Tycoon Charged with Murder and Other 'Mafia-Style' Crimes (voanews.com)
- Murder charges filed against Sichuan mafia billionaire Liu Han (wantchinatimes.com)
- Tycoon's 'hooligan army' had blessing of communist chiefs (thetimes.co.uk)
- China vows to hunt down officials who sheltered Liu Han's 'mafia gang' (theguardian.com)
- Chinese Tycoon Charged With 'Mafia-Style' Crimes (world.time.com)