Mon, Jun 12, 2017 - Page 14 News List

HNA threatens legal action against exiled tycoon Guo

Reuters, BEIJING

Chinese conglomerate HNA Group (海航集團) has described online allegations made against it by controversial billionaire Guo Wengui (郭文貴) as “completely unfounded and false” and threatened legal action in its first public comments on the issue.

Chinese-born Guo, who now lives in New York, has emerged as a political threat to the Chinese government in an acutely sensitive year, making clear that he wants to disrupt a five-yearly congress to be held this autumn.

A sprawling group from aviation to financial services, HNA has become China’s most active non-government enterprise in global markets, with deals worth more than US$50 billion.

HNA rebutted Guo’s claims on its Web site, ranging from allegations of shareholdings by senior Chinese government officials and their relatives to irregularities in global acquisitions and improprieties over its VIP jet.

“HNA Group reserves right to pursue all legal actions in due course,” it added in its Web site statement late on Saturday.

Through Twitter and video blogs, Guo has unleashed a deluge of corruption allegations against high-level Chinese Communist Party officials.

He in April began making specific allegations against HNA, but the group had not previously replied publicly.

Within hours of HNA’s statement, Guo said in a live-streamed video that he welcomed its response, and urged the company to make good on its threat to sue.

“If it’s just me speaking, that’s no good,” he said in the video. “Only their replies can prove the value and the truth of the matter. This is critical.”

Guo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Guo has provided scant evidence to back up his accusations, but his standing as a former billionaire insider and his close ties with a disgraced former senior intelligence official have made him a center of attention in Beijing political circles.

The government has launched a sustained effort to discredit Guo, making a request to Interpol in April for the issue of a global “red notice” for his arrest.

Three senior employees of Guo on Friday told a court he had instructed them to fraudulently obtain loans amounting to hundreds of millions of US dollars.

Property developer SOHO China Ltd (Soho中國) chairman Pan Shiyi (潘石屹) and a prominent journalist, Hu Shuli (胡舒立), the founder of Caixin Media, have also filed defamation suits against Guo in New York.

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