There is no hope of forgiveness for the former head of China Huarong Asset Management
In a high-profile bribery, embezzlement and bigamy case that stunned the world, a Chinese court sentenced a former banker and party official to death. Lai Xiaomin, former chairman of one of China’s four main state-controlled asset management companies, China Huarong Asset Management Co, pleaded guilty to dozens of charges. Over a 10-year period during which he also worked as a regulator, he was accused of soliciting bribes of nearly 1.79 billion yuan ($276.7 million). In order to receive the “extremely large” bribes, the Tianjin court claimed that Lai exploited his power and the conditions were “particularly serious,” including accepting bribes to get people jobs, promotions or contracts. He was also found guilty of bigamy for living as a husband and wife with another woman and fathering children, as well as embezzling more than 25 million yuan in government funds. In one of the biggest financial crime cases in China, the death penalty for Lai was handed down without a two-year reprieve – a standard caveat that enables death sentences to be commuted to 25 years or life imprisonment after two years. China was shocked by the case.
In a Beijing apartment he called “the supermarket.” Lai allegedly had safes and cabinets full of cash. He also allegedly owned gold bars and luxury vehicles, a bank account with hundreds of millions of yuan in his mother’s name, and more than 100 mistresses to whom he gave properties owned by a Huarong real estate subsidiary, reported by the Chinese media group Caixin. Lai was put under surveillance and supervision.
The state media broadcast a thorough confession by Lai, who said he “didn’t spend a single penny and just kept it … I didn’t dare spend it” The Tianjin court said the crimes of Lai took place primarily after the 18th Congress of the Communist Party in 2012, which launched an anti-corruption drive defining the term of President Xi Jinping.
Millions of officials were prosecuted or disciplined during Xi’s campaign, and there were reports that the campaign was used to get rid of political rivals. China ranked 80th in the global corruption index of Transparency International in 2020, but the movement has gained traction among the public, with 84% telling Transparency International that the government is doing a good job of combating corruption. Although the offences for which Lai was convicted outnumber those of higher-ranking corrupt party members, white-collar offenses usually include a jail term or a two-year conviction deferment.
The scale of Lai’s crime “warrants” the death penalty, said Mo Shaoping, a Chinese lawyer, but he is the first person in recent years to be sentenced without the prospect of a commutation of a sentence. “The death penalty with parole is no longer sufficient to satisfy citizens’ anger, nor is it sufficient as a deterrent,” he said. China executes more people than any other country, according to Amnesty International.
Beijing does not issue death penalty statistics, but thousands of people are estimated to be executed for crimes every year, including non-violent offences such as drugs and corruption.