Corruption in China

Anbang’s jailed chairman Wu Xiaohui appeals against fraud conviction

Wu Xiaohui, the former chairman of troubled Chinese insurance giant Anbang, has lodged an appeal against his conviction for fraud and embezzlement

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 May, 2018, 10:19am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 May, 2018, 11:14pm

Wu Xiaohui, the former chairman of troubled Chinese insurance giant Anbang, has lodged an appeal against his conviction for fraud and embezzlement worth around US$12 billion which saw him sentenced to 18 years behind bars, according to his lawyer.

“Wu has appealed for innocence. The Shanghai High People’s Court has formed a collegial court to review the appeal,” said Chen Youxi, one of China’s most renowned lawyers, famous for defending controversial businesspeople, in his personal WeChat and Weibo accounts at about 6am on Wednesday.

The post on Weibo was later removed but when contacted by the South China Morning Post, Chen confirmed the content was true, without providing any further details.

As well as the jail term, the court also decided to confiscate 10.5 billion yuan (US$1.6 billion) of Wu’s personal assets when it sentenced him in early May.

Wu’s appeal is the latest twist in the most high-profile criminal case brought against a member of China’s business elite as part of a broader crackdown on corruption.

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Once at the helm of one of China’s most aggressive asset buyers, Wu was put on trial in the No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court in Shanghai in late March, charged with illegal fundraising, fraud worth 65.2 billion yuan and embezzling 10 billion yuan from Anbang’s insurance premium income.

Anbang Group, the insurance conglomerated founded and controlled by Wu, was taken over by China’s insurance regulator to prevent risks brought by the wrongdoings of Wu that endangers its solvency ability, the authority announced ahead of the trail in late February.

Wu contested all the charges, according to a telecast of the one-day trial.

But in footage broadcast later by CCTV, Wu, 51, was seen weeping and begging for the lenience of the court.

It remains uncertain if a court hearing would be held in response to Wu’s appeal.

“Chinese laws say as long as the defendants raised doubts over evidence of the previous trial, there should be an appeal trial held,” said Zhou Ze, a veteran criminal lawyer based in Beijing.

“But in practice, most appeal trials were handled in written forms. This is very unreasonable,” he added.

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Wu’s trial on March 28 was concluded in just one day, with limited media access. It left many questions unanswered – particularly about how Wu obtained hard to get insurance licences, constantly breached the quota of fundraising for insurance premiums set by the regulator, and who or what the mysterious source of his seed capital was.

Anbang, founded in 2004, grew from a seller of car insurance into one of China’s largest insurance providers, holding nearly 2 trillion yuan in assets.

The company has been making global headlines since 2014, following its takeover of Manhattan’s landmark Waldorf Astoria hotel for US$2 billion, and other foreign assets.

Partnered with the son of a marshal who had helped found Communist China, married to the granddaughter of Deng Xiaoping, the nation’s paramount leader in the 1980s, and backed by China’s most powerful state firms and the industry’s top regulator, Wu was once the country’s most feted business tycoon.

Anbang’s ex-chief Wu Xiaohui jailed for US$12 billion fraud, embezzlement