Chinese judge behind US$270 million business empire sacked, facing prosecution

Kinling Lo

A senior judge in southern China who was detained in May after being accused of running a multibillion-dollar business empire with her husband has been sacked and will now face prosecution.

Following an investigation, Zhang Jiahui, vice-president of the Hainan Provincial Higher People’s Court, was found to have accumulated – in collaboration with her former husband Liu Yuansheng and son – assets worth almost 1.9 billion yuan (US$270 million), investigators said late on Saturday.

She is also accused of interfering in judicial processes and engaging in other acts of corruption, the provincial commission for discipline inspection said in a statement on its official WeChat account.

Zhang had been expelled from the Communist Party and would now face prosecution, it said.

“As a party cadre, Zhang went against the principles and values of the Communist Party,” the commission said.

“[She] has been disloyal and dishonest to the party, a hypocrite who has low morals and full of selfish greed. She took advantage of her power for personal gain and went against party discipline and national laws.”

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Zhang came to the public’s attention in April when a video of her gambling at mahjong was shown during a separate trial involving her former husband. In that case, Liu, who runs a property development company, accused his business associates of using the video to extort money from him.

The following month, two other businessmen accused Zhang and Liu of running a business empire comprising 36 companies and amassing a family fortune of more than 20 billion yuan. It was those charges that led to the investigation into the judge.

Investigators said that during the course of their work they looked at 1,300 sets of documents, 156,000 pages of statements and spoke to more than 1,200 people.

They found that Liu, himself a former judge who left the judiciary in the mid-1990s to set up a property business, was found to be controlling 26 companies in various industries. Zhang never declared those assets, and although she and Liu officially divorced in 2017 the separation was seen as one of convenience.

A recent report by China Newsweek magazine said investigators found that 11 firms with links to the couple had been either sold or wound up. They included a firm behind a golf course project valued at more than 10 billion yuan.

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