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China accuses tycoon of murder in major gang bust

By Gillian Wong / Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 07:56 p.m. HST, Feb 20, 2014

BEIJING » Authorities accused a Chinese mining tycoon of running a vast mafia that blackmailed, beat and gunned down rivals in daytime attacks, traveled in Rolls Royces and Ferraris and fostered ties to prosecutors and police with drug-fueled parties.

The high-level investigation centering on Liu Han, the former multimillionaire chairman of energy conglomerate Sichuan Hanlong Group with stakes in Australian and U.S. miners, and his brother Liu Wei and 34 associates has exposed ties between organized crime and Chinese officialdom.

The gang bust in southwestern China appears to be part of a sprawling shakeup of Sichuan province that has ensnared senior politicians and influential businessmen in a wide-ranging corruption crackdown launched by President Xi Jinping. Many of the Sichuan cases are believed linked to Zhou Yongkang, a former security czar who until recently was one of the country's most powerful leaders, and is reportedly himself the subject of a graft investigation.

The Liu brothers were charged Thursday with 15 crimes, including murder, assault and illegal detention, the official Xinhua News Agency said. The alleged gang's criminal activities, dating to 1993, helped them amass 40 billion yuan ($6.5 billion) in assets with businesses in finance, energy, real estate and mining, Xinhua said.

Investigators have uncovered evidence showing that over the past decade or so, the gang committed crimes that led to the deaths of nine people — five of whom were shot, Xinhua said. Police seized three military-issue hand grenades, a half-dozen submachine guns, 20 pistols and other firearms, 677 bullets and more than 100 knives.

Liu Han was No. 148 in 2012 on Forbes magazine's list of the richest Chinese businesspeople, with a fortune estimated at $855 million. He told The Wall Street Journal in 2010 that an investor once shot up his car after suffering losses in a deal. He called himself "Liu Han, the only survivor."

The gang is accused of blackmailing, threatening, beating up and even murdering their business rivals and ordinary people while bribing police and prosecutors to protect their associates and dealings, the report said. They owned a fleet of several hundred cars that included Rolls-Royces, Bentleys and Ferraris.

They allegedly also fostered strong political ties in Sichuan that helped appoint Liu Han as a delegate of the provincial political advisory body for three consecutive terms, Xinhua said. Liu's brother Liu Wei — who later became an A-list fugitive wanted by police — even served as a torchbearer during the 2008 Olympic torch relay.

Among the accused are three officials in city-level police and prosecutors' offices in Sichuan, Xinhua said, adding that Liu Wei's testimony showed the officials were paid off with money and gifts as well as weekly parties with illicit drugs.

Xinhua said the investigation into the Liu brothers' alleged crime gang was coordinated by the Communist Party's central leadership starting in March last year and involved national-level authorities. The Ministry of Public Security ordered police in Beijing, Hubei, Sichuan and elsewhere to cooperate in the bust, Xinhua said.

The case caught the attention of national authorities in 2009 when gang members allegedly carried out a shooting in daylight on a busy street in Guanghan city, killing three people and injuring two bystanders. Authorities pinpointed Liu Wei as the main suspect who ordered the shooting and placed him on a wanted list, the report said. Liu Wei went into hiding, allegedly harbored by his brother.

Though the gang was operating mainly in Sichuan, authorities in neighboring Hubei province are handling the case, with a court in Xianning City expected to put the suspects on trial. Such a prosecution is unusual and is a sign that the case is being steered from the central level and that there might be concerns the group still wields influence over the judicial system in Sichuan.

Liu Han was detained in March last year, and his disappearance disrupted Hanlong's deals with mining companies in the United States and Australia. Calls to Hanlong rang unanswered while there was no immediate response to an emailed request for comment.

Hanlong owns a 13 percent stake in General Moly, a miner of molybdenum, a mineral used to harden steel, and 14 percent of Australia's Sundance Resources.

Hanlong was founded in 1997 and has interests in mining, construction of hydroelectric power, highway and tourism infrastructure and other businesses with a total workforce of more than 12,000 people, according to its website.

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manakuke wrote:
As communist China turns.
on February 21,2014 | 02:34AM
Mythman wrote:
Good old one party rule, lack of separation of powers, insiders running everything from top to bottom - sounds like Hawaii/
on February 21,2014 | 04:19AM
cojef wrote:
Just like the FCC trying to control the media, yes by placing monitors in the news rooms and thus controlling what the public may read, see or hear. All because a national survey indicated that EPA issues were last of 20 issues in the poll which is the most troubling to the American people. The private EPA advocacy group in order to foster their agenda contacted the White House to do something to advance their program. That is how the the FCC got involved. Get control of how information is disseminated to the masses by controlling the media. Nazi Germany was the master of this practice. Thought control.
on February 21,2014 | 07:37AM
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