Founder of Evergrande Joins Ranks of Investigated and Arrested Chinese Tycoons

The founder of China Evergrande, the world’s most indebted property developer, Hui Ka Yan, is facing an investigation for “illegal crimes,” adding to the mounting challenges confronting both him and his beleaguered company as it battles to remain solvent. Hui Ka Yan, aged 64, established Evergrande in 1996 in China’s southern Guangdong province, and his current predicament makes him the latest tycoon to come under scrutiny since Chinese President Xi Jinping assumed power in 2012.

Here is a list of some other prominent Chinese executives who have faced investigations or arrests during Xi’s leadership:

Zhao Weiguo, Former Chairman of Tsinghua Unigroup: In March, the former chairman of the chip conglomerate faced charges including corruption and illegally earning profits for associates. Tsinghua Unigroup, initially a branch of Tsinghua University, experienced significant debt accumulation under Zhao’s leadership. The company ventured into unrelated and unprofitable businesses, including real estate and online gambling, ultimately leading to defaults on bond payments in late 2020 and bankruptcy threats.

Bao Fan, Founder of China Renaissance: The founder of China Renaissance Holdings was detained in February, and as of August, he was cooperating with authorities as investigations continued. The specific nature of the investigation remains unclear. Bao, previously associated with Credit Suisse Group and Morgan Stanley, earned a reputation as one of China’s well-connected bankers, playing pivotal roles in major technology mergers such as ride-hailing firms Didi and Kuaidi, and food delivery giants Meituan and Dianping. His current whereabouts remain unknown.

Xiao Jianhua, Founder of Tomorrow Holdings: Xiao has not been seen in public since 2017. In 2022, he was sentenced to 13 years in jail, and his Tomorrow conglomerate faced a fine of 55.03 billion yuan ($8.1 billion) imposed by a Shanghai court. Xiao, a Chinese-Canadian billionaire with ties to China’s Communist Party elite, was discreetly removed from a luxury Hong Kong hotel in 2017. The Shanghai court alleged that Xiao and Tomorrow provided assets to government officials totaling over 680 million yuan between 2001 and 2021, evading financial oversight and pursuing illegitimate benefits.

Chen Feng (Chairman) and Tan Xiangdong (CEO), HNA Group: Chen and Tan of HNA Group were apprehended by Chinese police in 2021 on suspicions of criminal offenses. The conglomerate, HNA Group, was placed under bankruptcy administration during this period. HNA Group, notably owning Hainan Airlines, engaged in a debt-fueled $50 billion global acquisition spree in the 2010s, acquiring stakes in various businesses ranging from Deutsche Bank to Hilton Worldwide.

Wu Xiaohui, Chairman of Anbang Insurance Group: Wu faced prosecution for economic crimes in early 2018 following investigations by China’s insurance regulators, which revealed that Anbang, an insurance-to-property conglomerate, had violated laws and regulations potentially jeopardizing its solvency. Prosecutors took control of the group, and Wu was arrested in June 2017 as part of Beijing’s crackdown on big-spending conglomerates to mitigate financial risks. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison in May 2018 for fraud and embezzlement.

Ye Jianming, Founder of CEFC China Energy: In 2017, Ye’s CEFC reached a nearly $9.1 billion deal to acquire a stake in Russian oil major Rosneft. However, he was investigated for suspected economic crimes a year later and disappeared from public view in March 2018 after being taken in for questioning, as reported by Reuters. His conglomerate, CEFC, has since been dissolved amid soaring debt levels, marking a significant downfall for a businessman who once ranked second in Fortune magazine’s “40 Under 40” list of the world’s most influential young people in 2016.


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