China executes billionaire tycoon "mafia" boss

Feb 09, 2015, 4:16 PM EST
A Chinese national flag flies in front of Tiananmen Gate in Beijing, China, on Sunday, Nov. 9, 2014.
Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

On Monday China executed a billionaire mining tycoon convicted of running a mafia-style gang. The case is notable in that tremendous wealth and political influence was still insufficient to guarantee his protection. Xinhua reports that Liu Han was board chairman of the Hanlong Group, the biggest private enterprise in southwest China's Sichuan Province. He owned subsidiaries in the electricity, energy, finance, mining, real estate and securities sectors.

According to the verdict of the first trial, the group, led by the Liu brothers, was identified as a criminal organization as it had an established hierarchy, regular members and profited from criminal activities. The organization, which was hidden by government officials, illegally monopolized the gaming business in Guanghan City in Sichuan Province, tyrannized local people and seriously harmed economic and social order.

Liu Han’s arrest in March 2013 came as he was in talks to buy the Australian mining company Sundance Resources, according to the New York Times. The deal collapsed the following month. In 2009, his flagship company, Sichuan Hanlong Group, bought a controlling stake in another Australian mining company, Moly Mines. His brother, Liu Wei, was a torchbearer for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Liu Wei was convicted of ordering the killings of three people in 2009 at an open-air tea house in his hometown in Sichuan Province. When they rounded up the gang in 2013, the police said they confiscated grenades, guns, bullets and knives. The brothers and their associates had fleets of cars including Rolls-Royces, Bentleys and Ferraris.

In recent months, several top officials from Sichuan province have come under scrutiny, notes the BBC. Sichuan was a power base of Zhou Yongkang, China's former domestic security chief who is now the subject of a corruption probe. Mr Zhou was the party secretary in Sichuan before becoming head of China's public security ministry in 2003.

He was arrested in December 2014, the latest and by far the most senior figure to be handed over to prosecutors as part of President Xi Jinping's crackdown on corruption. Official reports do not specifically link Liu's case with Mr Zhou. The South China Morning Post reports Liu was an associate of Zhou Bin, Mr Zhou's son.

Meng Jianzhu, head of the the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee's Commission for Political and Legal Affairs, vowed to root out criminal organizations, concludes Xinhua. "Officials who offer protection to criminal organizations will be hunted down mercilessly," he said.