Former Chinese Finance Tycoon Executed

January 29, 2021 Updated: January 30, 2021

Lai Xiaomin, former chairman of China Huarong Asset Management Co., the country’s largest such firm, was executed by a court in Tianjin city on Jan. 29.

The firm was founded in Beijing on Nov. 8, 1999. Since September 2012, Lai also served as the company’s Chinese Communist Party chief.

Lai was first placed under investigation by China’s anti-corruption watchdog in April 2018.

On Jan. 5, 2021, he was sentenced to death without reprieve by the Tianjin intermediate court, on charges of bribery, embezzlement, and bigamy.

The court noted that most of the activity in question took place after the 18th Party congress in late 2012, when Xi came to power. Xi would soon launch a sweeping anti-corruption campaign that has purged many of his political rivals.

Lai was purged amid reshuffling within the central government’s finance-related agencies, a hint that authorities would target corruption in the finance sector.

Lai appealed the verdict to the Tianjin Supreme Court. But on Jan. 21, the supreme court determined that the first-trial ruling should be maintained.

Lai Xiaomin
China Huarong Asset Management Co Chairman Lai Xiaomin listens to a question from a reporter during the debut of the company at the Hong Kong Exchanges in Hong Kong, China, on Oct. 30, 2015. (Bobby Yip/Reuters)

China’s highest court, the Supreme Court, reviewed his case and confirmed capital punishment for him.

The court’s review statement explained that Lai took advantage of his positions to seek improper benefits for those who bribed him. He was accused of taking assets totaling 1.788 billion yuan (about$276.72 million), embezzling public assets totaling 25.13 million yuan (about $3.9 million), and committing bigamy.

Following the verdict, the Tianjin intermediate court carried out the execution on the morning of Jan. 29.

Prior to his execution, he was granted an opportunity to see his close relatives for the last time.

State broadcaster CCTV described Lai’s corruption in a documentary that aired on Jan. 13.

It said one of his properties was used as a warehouse stocking illegal cash he had taken from people as bribes. A number of safes were shown on camera, which contained around 200 million yuan in cash (about $31 million).

Lai had a habit: he accepted bribes in cash only, wishing to evade possible investigation. Every time he received illegal cash, he transported it with his own car by himself to that “warehouse.”

He used a code name for this property, “the supermarket,” which was known only to his close contacts.

He also parked his money via houses, luxury cars, watches, gold, and paintings.

In the documentary, an official from China’s anti-corruption watchdog said: “He has several luxury cars to himself, worth one million yuan (about $160,000) each, including a Bentley, Benz, and Alphard, all down in the underground garage.”

Insiders said that Lai placed sons and daughters of high-ranking CCP officials into positions at his company, depending on nepotism to seek political capital for himself, according to Chinese media reports.