Celebrity tycoon probed for land deal

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 March, 2007, 12:00am

Boom town shocked after TV investor flees party's disciplinary confinement

Police are searching for a celebrity entrepreneur from booming Zhejiang province to face allegations of 'severe corruption' in land bidding four years ago.

Pikawang International Group chairman Jia Yun fled 21 days ago after being placed under shuanggui (a form of internal Communist Party disciplinary investigation) on February 6, for violating people's congress election rules, the Hangzhou-based Youth Times reported. The violations were not specified.

The 42-year-old from fast-growing Dongyang , who is also a member of the city's People's Congress, suddenly 'disappeared' from confinement on Tuesday night, the report said.

A Dongyang television station broadcast the news of Jia's flight that night.

Police want him to answer charges of serious graft and violating land-bidding processes related to his group's 307-hectare film theme park in Dongyang.

The television report did not disclose the amount of money allegedly involved in the case.

The news shocked the local community, which also saw the arrest of female tycoon Wu Ying for alleged illegal fund-raising from the public last month.

Pikawang, with assets of more than 1.7 billion yuan, 21 subsidiaries and more than 13,000 employees according to its website, is one of Dongyang's top taxpayers. It is involved in TV production, land development, chemicals and trade and logistics.

Last year, the group paid more than 10 million yuan in tax to the government and it was named one of the top 50 private companies in the province in 2004.

Jia rose to fame through his group's huge investments in the production of dozens of TV drama series. His name is also closely connected with film star Fan Bingbing , whose career was reportedly backed by Jia.

Unlike in Wu's case, the Dongyang government website had not announced Jia's detention and the Youth Times reported that the city government wanted to prevent his case having too much of a negative impact on the city's elite.

The last time Jia came to the public attention was on February 5 in Beijing, when he had a meeting with the production crew of the group's latest TV drama, according to the group's website.

'The group has enough evidence - accounting and legal documents - to prove that Mr Jia didn't violate any regulation in the land bidding process,' said an employee of the Pikawang group who would give only her surname, Zhou.

'The charges against Mr Jia are now totally different. He was put under shuanggui for breaking the one-child policy, which is ridiculous because his second child is now four years old. If that was the real reason, he should have been investigated much earlier.'

She said the real reason for Jia's difficulties was related to a power shift in the city government.