Wang You-theng (王又曾), the fugitive chairman of the now-defunct Rebar Asia Pacific Group (力霸企業集團), was killed in a car crash early on Friday in California, where he had lived for several years after fleeing the country following his indictment on embezzlement charges.
He was 89.
US media reports indicate that Wang’s vehicle was caught in a five-car pileup in West Covina, California, while traveling to make preparations for his daughter’s wedding.
The crash took place on the westbound Interstate 10 between Citrus and Barranca avenues at 1:10am on Friday, according to local media reports.
Wang was reportedly unconscious as his wife, Wang Chin She-ying (王金世英), pulled him out of the burning wreckage of his German luxury sedan.
He was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
His wife, who had been driving the car, reportedly survived the crash without serious injuries. A person in one of the other vehicles also died.
The West Covina coroner’s office identified Wang on Saturday.
Born in China, Wang ran a department store in Shanghai, then fled to Taiwan following the defeat of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) by the Chinese Communist Party in 1949, where he invested in a popular night club.
He later built a business empire through the personal connections he made with notable industry leaders who frequented his nightclub.
Wang befriended and gained the trust of business magnate Ong Ming-chung (翁明昌), and took over management of a number Ong’s companies that later became the foundation of Rebar Group following Ong’s sudden death in 1977.
During its height, Rebar Group’s assets exceeded NT$400 billion (US$12.24 billion at current exchange rates), and encompassed industries including banking, constructions, steel, retail, hospitality, real estate, media, telecoms and cement.
However, the group began racking up massive losses, and Wang was discovered to have embezzled about NT$32 billion from subsidiaries of his business empire by funneling funds via bogus loans through his bank, the now-defunct Chinese Bank (中華商業銀行).
After being charged with embezzlement, Wang and his wife fled Taiwan on Dec. 30, 2006 — first to Hong Kong, then China and then to the US — and remained at large while maintaining a lavish lifestyle, while their seven children received jail terms and fines for their involvement in the collapse of Rebar Group.
With his death, Wang left behind 69 civil cases against him and countless disenfranchised Rebar Group investors.
This story has been corrected since it was first published to note that Wang had been indicted on embezzlement charges, but was not convicted.
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