China Executes Tycoon Liu Han
Billionaire Put to Death for Offenses Including Running a Mafia-Like Enterprise
By James T. Areddy in the Wall Street Journal
SHANGHAI—Chinese authorities executed tycoon Liu Han on Monday, after his prosecution led to the collapse of his ambitious business empire and brought attention to his links to a top target of China’s broad crackdown on corruption.
Mr. Liu, 49 years old, was executed Monday, according to a brief notice from the Xianning People’s Intermediate Court in Hubei Province which in May 2014 sentenced him to death for offenses that included running a mafia-like enterprise.
The intermediate court said a Supreme Court review upheld the death sentence for Mr. Liu, his younger brother, Liu Wei, and three others sentenced who likewise were put to death. It provided no details of the executions.
A billionaire who lived large, Mr. Liu had built an investment empire around his private Hanlong Group based in Sichuan province that included resources businesses that stretched beyond China to Australia and the U.S. The court accepted arguments from government prosecutors that he made most of his money running a criminal enterprise that bribed, extorted and killed its way to riches.
Mr. Liu denied that he ran a criminal business, though he said his tough attitude in business made him the target of a shooting and the kidnapping of relatives.
Mr. Liu’s top political ties weren’t officially part of the case against him.
But in the months since he was tried, some media in China have alleged Mr. Liu enjoyed deep connections to the biggest target in China’s corruption crackdown: Zhou Yongkang, a former Communist Party leader who once ran Sichuan. He was officially arrested in December to face a host of corruption charges.
Though Mr. Liu’s prosecution wasn't part of the formal corruption crackdown, his arrest came amid a sweep of other officials and business people in Sichuan with ties to Mr. Zhou. As such, his execution makes Mr. Liu one of the first people put to death in connection with the crackdown.
While numerous people have been detained during the campaign, few have yet been tried in a court. In some cases, companies rather than party prosecutors have been the source of news about people detained during this period when they—like Mr. Liu—weren’t members of the party.
People who know Mr. Liu confirm he had ties to the now-disgraced politician Mr. Zhou, and say the relationship ultimately made him politically vulnerable. Police arrested Mr. Liu in March 2013 on allegations that he was harboring the brother, who had been wanted for a 2009 triple murder.
The tycoon put up a vigorous defense during his trial, according to court transcripts seen by The Wall Street Journal. His defense received little coverage in the state-run media, which gave wide play to the charges against him and the trial.
Nothing in the court transcripts suggests the politician Mr. Zhou was ever mentioned.
The court didn’t provide details about Monday’s execution but said that the process respected the legal rights of Mr. Liu and the others, including by permitting family members one final chance to visit.