Fan Bingbing whistle-blower back on the attack with jab at ‘huge fraud’ Air Strike

Former CCTV talk show host Cui Yongyuan fans the tax evasion flames after top-paid actress fined US$129 million for under-reporting income

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 October, 2018, 7:32am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 October, 2018, 7:19pm

The celebrity whistle-blower who first accused top Chinese actress Fan Bingbing of tax evasion has claimed her latest film is a “huge fraud”, just hours after it was revealed that Fan has to pay hundreds of millions of yuan in fines.

“The facts prove once again that Air Strike is a huge fraud, and one person who took part in the huge fraud has now been punished,” former CCTV talk show host Cui Yongyuan wrote on his official microblog on Wednesday.

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Fan, 37, has been ordered to pay fines of nearly 884 million yuan (US$129 million) for evading tax through fraudulent contracts, according state news agency Xinhua.

It was unclear if Cui was making fresh claims of evasion – an official investigation found that Fan evaded 20 million yuan of taxable income by under-reporting her pay for the movie as 10 million yuan, The Beijing News reported.

Air Strike, produced by Mel Gibson and known as Unbreakable Spirit in China, is set in Chongqing during the second world war and scheduled for worldwide release later this month.

According to the report, the actress evaded the tax through a system of “yin-yang” contracts, a practice that made headlines in May when Cui posted photos of two contracts Fan signed for the film Cell Phone 2, by acclaimed Chinese director Feng Xiaogang.

One of the contracts showed that she was paid 10 million yuan (US$1.56 million) for four days’ work on the film, while the other said she was paid five times that amount.

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Cui claimed that Fan submitted the contract with the lower value to Chinese tax authorities.

The post was viewed 38 million times before being deleted by censors.

Cui’s posts triggered public furore over the issue of corruption in China’s film and entertainment industries, where yin-yang contracts are rife.

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In June, five Chinese government agencies announced a cap on actors’ salaries to crack down on tax evasion and celebrity “money worship”. Now, actors in Chinese film and television productions cannot be paid more than 40 per cent of total production costs.

Fan initially denied the allegations, before disappearing from public view from July to October. Cui apologised to the actress in June, denying that the contracts were related to her.

In the meantime, Chinese state media was prohibited from reporting on the allegations or speculating on her whereabouts.

Then on Wednesday, Xinhua reported that Fan had been ordered to pay the fines. She would escape conviction if she paid the tax bill in full, the authorities said.

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The X-Men star released an official apology the same day, saying that she fully accepted the authorities’ punishment.

Cui has been lauded as a hero on Chinese social media for shining a light on tax evasion.

“Even ordinary people who earn a few thousand yuan must pay taxes. How embarrassing that she earns tens of thousands to hundreds of millions of yuan and still doesn’t pay tax,” one user wrote on Cui’s latest post.

“I support Master Cui, Fan Bingbing must go to jail,” read another top-rated comment.

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Air Strike – also starring Bruce Willis, Adrien Brody, Chinese actor Liu Ye and South Korea’s Song Seung-heon – was expected to be released on October 26.

Directed by Xiao Geng, the CGI-laden film follows five Chinese soldiers who fight to protect military equipment in Chongqing from Japanese air raids.

Fan has also been cast in Jessica Chastain’s upcoming all-female action thriller 355, which is due to start shooting in 2019, according to Variety.

China Film Group Corporation, the production company behind Air Strike, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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A representative of Cui was also contacted for comment.

Fan is China’s highest-paid celebrity after the Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan, earning 300 million yuan last year, according to Forbes. Fan earned 1.4 billion yuan between 2013 and 2016, and frequently appeared in major advertising campaigns for luxury brands in China.