Xiao Jianhua: China court sentences Chinese-Canadian billionaire to 13 years in jail

File Xiao Jianhua pictured in 201. He was sentenced 13 yeears in prison by a Chinese court  (screengrab/SCMP)
File Xiao Jianhua pictured in 201. He was sentenced 13 yeears in prison by a Chinese court (screengrab/SCMP)

A China-born Canadian business tycoon Xiao Jianhua was sentenced to 13 years in prison and his company Tomorrow Holdings was fined 55 billion yuan ($8.1bn).

Xiao, who disappeared from his room at a Hong Kong hotel in January 2017 and was believed to have been taken by Chinese mainland authorities, made his first public appearance in five years at the trial.

The owner of the Beijing-based Tomorrow Holdings was convicted of illegally obtaining public deposits, breach of trust, bribery and the illegal use of billions of dollars funds, according to a ruling by the Shanghai No 1 Intermediate People’s Court on Friday.

He was found guilty of improperly taking more than 311.6bn yuan ($46bn) from the public and misuing entrusted property and money totalling 148.6bn yuan ($21.8bn), the court said.

Xiao was fined 6.5mn yuan ($950,000) and additionally, his company was fined 55bn yuan ($8.1bn), the court said.

The court added the punishment was mitigated because the company and Xiao had admitted their crimes and cooperated in recovering illegal gains and in restoring losses.

Xiao, 50 now, was born in China and studied at the Peking University, the countries one of the most prominent universities. He was believed to have links to the country’s Communist party’s top leadership.

He vanished and was not seen in public since 2017 amid a flurry of prosecutions of Chinese businesspeople accused of misconduct. He was whisked out of Four Seasons hotel in a wheelchair allegedly by Chinese security agents who did not have the right to operate in Hong Kong at that time.

News reports later said he was taken across the border to China via sea route to avoid immigration checks.

The Canadian government said diplomats were blocked from attending his 5 July trial last year. The Canadian Embassy in Beijing referred a request for comment to the Canadian government in Ottawa.

When asked about Xiao's right to consular access as a Canadian citizen during a regular briefing on Friday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said that because Chinese law does not recognise dual nationality, Xiao was not entitled to such rights.

“China does not recognize Chinese citizens with dual nationality. Xiao Jianhua has Chinese nationality,” Mr Wang said. “He does not enjoy the right to consular protection of other countries.”

Xiao was worth nearly $6bn, making him China’s 32nd wealthiest person at the time of his disappearance, according to the Hurun Report, which follows the country’s wealthy.