Tycoon stands trial in Chinese gangland case


A mining tycoon, his brother and 34 associates stood trial Monday on allegations of running a vast criminal gang in China’s Sichuan province that gunned down rivals, maintained fleets of Ferraris and bribed police.

The trial centers around Liu Han, former multimillionaire chairman of energy conglomerate Sichuan Hanlong Group, with stakes in Australian and U.S. miners, in a case that has exposed ties between organized crime and officialdom.

Liu, his brother, Liu Wei, and the 34 others went on trial in the Xianning Intermediate People’s Court in Hubei province, the court. Having the case handled outside of Sichuan indicates it is being steered by the central government and reflects concerns the defendants may still wield influence in their home province.

The gang bust appears to be part of a wide-ranging corruption crackdown launched by President Xi Jinping that has ensnared senior politicians and influential businessmen. Many of the Sichuan cases are believed linked to Zhou Yongkang, a key player in the China’s energy industry before he became one of the country’s most powerful politicians.

The Liu brothers have been charged with 15 crimes, including murder, assault and illegal detention. The alleged gang’s criminal activities, dating to 1993, helped them amass 40 billion yuan ($6.5 billion) in assets with businesses in finance, energy, real estate and mining, China’s state Xinhua News Agency said.

The gang is accused in the deaths of nine people.

Liu Han was No. 148 in 2012 on Forbes magazine’s list of the richest Chinese businesspeople, with a fortune estimated at $855 million.

The gang allegedly fostered strong political ties in Sichuan that helped appoint Liu Han as a delegate of the provincial political advisory body for three consecutive terms, Xinhua said. Among the accused are three officials in city-level police and prosecutor’s offices in Sichuan. Xinhua said Liu Wei’s testimony showed the officials were paid off with money and gifts as well as weekly parties with illicit drugs.