US citizen gets 20 years after crime gang trial

Vincent Wu convicted of charges including kidnapping and fraud, but he says business rivals bribed the police to frame him

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 May, 2014, 3:22am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 May, 2014, 8:37am

A Chinese-American businessman has been jailed for 20 years by a court in Guangzhou for heading a crime gang.

Vincent Wu, 56, was convicted of at least seven offences, including kidnapping, fraud, arson, running a casino and possessing ammunition.

The family of Wu, who is a US citizen and also holds a Hong Kong identity card, said his elder brother and business rivals had bribed the police in Huizhou in Guangdong province to fabricate the charges.

Defendants in the case also allege confessions were obtained by the police under torture.

The court yesterday dismissed defence arguments that confessions were obtained by torture and said there were only "minor procedural glitches" during the police investigation.

There were angry scenes in court when the verdicts were announced in Wu's and 33 other defendants' cases. "I am definitely seeking an appeal. This is an enormous case of injustice," Wu told the judges.

"I could not imagine something like this could come out of Guangzhou," he said. Wu, wearing a blue prison vest with the number 430 printed on the back and his hair shaved closed to his head, raised his cuffed wrists and vowed to fight on.

"I'll appeal and I'll file a complaint [to the Supreme People's Court] and if those fail, I'll petition," he said.

More than 10 of the convicted defendants also said they would appeal against their sentences. "I'm not a triad member. I'm only a labourer. A labourer gets sentenced to 10 years. Where's the justice?" one defendant shouted at the judges. "You altered facts, created and manipulated evidence," he said.

Wu's case was heard between February 10 and April 3 with the issue of his nationality the subject of legal argument. Wu entered the mainland on a home return card issued by the mainland authorities to holders of a Hong Kong permanent resident ID. Prosecutors said he never gave up his Chinese nationality and could be tried as a Chinese citizen. China does not recognise dual citizenship.

But an employee of the US consulate in Guangzhou, who was present at the start of the trial as a member of the public, told the South China Morning Post Wu was a US citizen. "We take the welfare of detained US citizens very seriously," Steve Brault said.

Wu was also fined 500,000 yuan (HK$628,000) by the court and his assets worth 200 million yuan will be seized.

Wu had business interests in the fruit trade and property development in Huizhou. The court ruled that he had used his property company as a front to run the criminal gang.

His daughter, Anna, said the family would continue their legal fight. "I didn't expect it to be this bad and the fine is very high," she said. "We are going to appeal for sure. We still have faith," the 28-year-old said. "After being in China for two years I have experienced enough to overcome everything. I don't shed tears now because I'm strong enough to handle everything, I'll support my dad."

Wu has been held in custody since his arrest by Huizhou public security officials two years ago. His family has expressed anger that he had been denied his legal rights as a US citizen.