BOSS OF HAICHANG GROUP CHARGED IN FRANCE FOR IRREGULARITIES IN CHAUTEAX PURCHASES
By Tony Zhu
Credit: Siulan Law Mathews
French prosecutors have charged Chinese businessman Qu Naijie of mony laundering, tax fraud, embezzlement of public funds and misuse of corporate assets in his purchases of 25 Bordeaux vineyards between 2010 and 2013.
The founder and CEO of Dalian-based Haichang Group, which is known for its theme parks in China, will have to answer the charges in the Paris Criminal Court next February along with French accounting firm Exco Ecaf, which represented him in the purchases.
French media reports said that the prosecutors accused Qu of embezzling €32 million (USD28m) of Chinese state subsidies granted for investment in digital technology, but Qu used the money to buy the 25 Bordeaux chateaux instead.
The prosecutors claimed that an opaque circuit of companies were used to disguise the transactions.
The French subsidiaries of Haichang - the Lamont companies, Lamont financier and Laforest - were suspected of having served as front companies.
The funds actaully came from an anonimous company registered in British Virgin Islands and each purchase was carried out by a company based in Hong Kong.
Most of the 25 properties are based in the right bank of Bordueax, and are said to worth in the region of €60m.
As well as the state funds he has allegedly embezzled, Qu is also accused of using fake bills of sale to obtain an additional €30m of loans from the Luxembourg subsidiary of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.
The winery ownership won Qu a place in the Bordelais wine brotherhood La Commanderie du Bontemps. He was also admitted as a member of the Chambres de Commerce et d’Industrie.
In 2014, China’s National Audit Office issued a report accusing Haichang Group of misspending public funds on purchassing vineayrds overseas.
The accusation alerted French authorities which started investigations on the irregularities surrounding Qu's Bordeaux purchases.
In 2018, French fraud investigators confiscated 10 of his estates over the alleged financial irregularities.
It took a further five years for the French prosecutors to formally charge Qu for money laundering, fraud and embezzlement and his accountant for assisting in the acts.
Qu's lawyer in France was quoted by French media as saying that all the funds have been paid back to relevant Chinse authorities and bank and no complaints have been raised from the Chinese side.
(the writer can be contacted at: email@example.com)
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