Ex-mining boss charged with murder and leading crime gang for 20 years

Reuters, BEIJING

Tue, Apr 01, 2014 - Page 5

A former Chinese mining magnate with links to the eldest son of former Chinese head of security Zhou Yongkang (周永康) went on trial yesterday over charges that included murder, after being accused of leading a 36-member gang on a crime spree spanning two decades.

Liu Han (劉漢), the former chairman of unlisted Hanlong Group and once ranked the 230th richest person in China, faced trial in Hubei Province along with the other members of his “mafia-style” gang, Xinhua news agency said.

Xinhua said Liu, who was arrested last year, was facing charges ranging from murder to gun-running and extortion for crimes carried out in Sichuan Province. His gang was responsible for nine murders, Xinhua said, without giving details.

Two sources said Liu was also a business partner of Zhou Bin (周濱), the eldest son of Zhou Yongkang, who is at the center of China’s biggest corruption scandal in more than six decades.

Those sources, who have been briefed on Zhou Yongkang’s investigation, told reporters over the weekend that Chinese authorities had seized assets worth at least 90 billion yuan (US$14.5 billion) from family members and associates of the elder Zhou.

“Liu Han was very close to Zhou Bin. They were business partners,” said one of the sources, who has ties to the Chinese Communist Party leadership.

The sources, who requested anonymity to avoid repercussions for speaking to the foreign media about elite politics, gave no further details. The respected Chinese magazine Caixin in February said Liu and Zhou Bin collaborated in power generation and tourism in Sichuan.

Official media have not directly linked Liu’s case to Zhou Yongkang, but have alluded to possible ties since the mining baron’s rise coincided with the former security boss’ time as the head of Sichuan’s Chinese Communist Party.

A court official in Hubei said updates on the trial in Xianning would be published on the court’s microblog account. It was not clear why the charges were laid in Hubei, although some of the crimes were suspected to have been committed there, Xinhua said.

Police last year launched an investigation into Liu and his younger brother Liu Yong (劉勇) — also known as Liu Wei (劉維) — on suspicion of criminal activities, official media has said.

Prosecutors in Hubei said the two set up the gang in 1993, along with 34 others, and it “carried out a vast number of criminal activities.”

“The ring, allegedly led by former mining tycoon Liu Han and his brother Liu Wei in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, is the largest mafia-style criminal group under trial in recent years in the country,” Xinhua said.