China sentences a Canadian billionaire to 13 years in prison.

Billionaire Xiao and his Tomorrow Holdings were accused of illegally absorbing public deposits, betraying the use of entrusted property, using funds, and bribery.

A Shanghai court sentenced Xiao Jianhua, a Chinese-born Canadian billionaire, to 13 years in prison and fined his Tomorrow Holdings Co conglomerate a record $8.1 billion (55.03 billion yuan).

According to the court, Xiao was personally fined nearly $1 billion (6.5 million yuan) for the crimes.

According to the court, from 2001 to 2021, Xiao and Tomorrow Holdings gave shares, real estate, cash, and other assets totaling more than $99.8 million (680 million yuan) to government officials to evade financial supervision and pursue illegitimate interests.

According to the court, Xiao and Tomorrow controlled numerous financial institutions and internet financial platforms, including the failed Baoshang Bank, through multiple layers of indirect shareholders and anonymous ownership beginning in 2004.

It was claimed that Xiao used the illegal gains to acquire financial institutions, engage in securities trading, and make overseas investments. It did, however, acknowledge his efforts to make amends.

"Because Xiao Jianhua performed commendable actions, he was given a reduced punishment by the law," it said.

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

During a regular briefing, when asked about Xiao's right to consular access as a Canadian citizen, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said that because Chinese law does not recognize dual nationality, Xiao was not entitled to such rights.

A request for comment from the Canadian Embassy in Beijing was not immediately returned. Tomorrow Holdings could not be reached for comment right away.

Creating an empire

Xiao, who was born in China and is known to have ties to China's Communist Party elite, has not been seen in public since 2017 after being investigated as part of a state-led conglomerate crackdown.

After graduating from university in the late 1980s, Xiao began selling computers and built an empire that included banking and insurance in the decades that followed.

Local Hong Kong media reported at the time of Xiao's disappearance that he had been kidnapped by mainland Chinese agents.

This fueled concerns about China's growing influence in the financial center.

These concerns fueled massive anti-Beijing protests in Hong Kong in 2019, sparked by a government bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.

China-Canada tensions

The years since Xiao's disappearance have been marked by deteriorating relations between China and Canada, precipitated by the arrest in Vancouver of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of telecoms giant Huawei, at the request of the US.

Following Meng's arrest, the Chinese government detained two Canadians and targeted Canadian agricultural exports.

All three were released in September 2021 after Meng reached an agreement with US prosecutors on fraud charges, effectively ending her fight to avoid extradition to the US.

There has been hoping for a diplomatic thaw since then, with Beijing lifting a ban on Canadian canola imports earlier this year.

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