Canada denies access to Chinese-Canadian billionaire’s trial, embassy says – National |

Chinese authorities have prevented Canadian government representatives from attending the trial of Chinese-Canadian billionaire Xiao Jianhua, the Canadian embassy said on Tuesday.

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Xiao, who disappeared in Hong Kong five years ago, was due to stand trial in China on Monday and Canadian consular officials had been pressing for consular access, the embassy said earlier in a statement.

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“Canada made several requests to attend the trial proceedings,” the embassy’s public diplomacy adviser, Nadia Scipio del Campo, said in an emailed statement to reporters.

“Our assistance was denied by the Chinese authorities.”

Asked for more details, such as confirming the location of the trial, the embassy said it would not comment further due to privacy considerations.

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A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, said Monday that he was not aware of the situation when asked about Xiao’s trial at a news conference.

Chinese-born Xiao, known for having ties to the Communist Party elite, has not been seen in public since 2017 after he was investigated amid a state-led crackdown on conglomerates.

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Officials have not disclosed details of the investigation.

Xiao was taken from a Hong Kong hotel, in a wheelchair with his head covered, in the early hours of the day he disappeared, a source close to the tycoon told Reuters at the time.

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Xiao was ranked 32nd on the 2016 Hurun China Rich List, the Chinese equivalent of the Forbes list, with an estimated net worth of $5.97 billion at the time.

At the center of Xiao’s empire is the financial group Tomorrow Holdings Co.

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In July 2020, regulators seized nine of the group’s related institutions as part of a crackdown on the risks posed by financial conglomerates.

In 2021, regulators extended the one-year takeover period of the nine financial firms for another year to “further promote de-risking work and defuse financial risks.”

The extended custody will end on July 16.

The seizures were preceded in 2019 by a takeover by regulators of Baoshang Bank, a lender once controlled by Tomorrow. Regulators cited serious credit risks.

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The lender, which had operated across the country, has morphed into a much smaller lender in its home region, Inner Mongolia, in northern China.

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In recent years, a number of executives from large Chinese companies have been investigated or prosecuted amid a broader crackdown on corruption spearheaded by President Xi Jinping that has also ensnared politicians and bankers.

Among those who have fallen from grace is Jiang Jiemin, the former head of China National Petroleum Corp CNPET.UL, who was jailed for 16 years for bribery and abuse of power in 2015.

In 2017, Ai Baojun, former chairman of Baoshan Iron and Steel 600019.SS who later became deputy mayor of Shanghai, was jailed for 17 years for bribery and corruption.

(Reporting by Martin Quin Pollard; Additional reporting by Meg Shen and Ryan Woo; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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