Former Chinese mining magnate Liu Han and his brother have been sentenced to death in China for allegedly running a corrupt “mafia-style” organization that “carried out a vast number of criminal activities,” including murder. Liu has denied all such charges.
According to Reuters, Liu, who may have had ties to former Chinese security tsar Zhou Yongkang, is alleged to have run a criminal gang that participated in the illegal gun trade and, according to the Washington Post, “deployed 36 agents, murdered nine people and amassed $6 billion in two decades.”
The court sentencing Liu explained on Chinese social media site Sina Weibo that he and his brother, Liu Wei, “had extremely malicious intentions, their acts were exceptionally atrocious, their social influences were extremely vile and their crimes and the consequences were extremely serious.” The case is among the most high-profile involving the Chinese government targeting a private businessman.
The South China Morning Post reports that Liu cried in court in reaction to the death sentence and insisted, “I was framed.” Liu Wei, meanwhile, accused the Chinese government of beatings and torture. “The police beat me every day when I was detained in Beijing… They said if I don’t make the confessions, then they will arrest my wife and child,” he is reported as saying.
In February, Chinese news outlet Xinhua published a detailed account of the allegations against Liu and those in his gang network. The accounts varied from dramatic incidents, such as a 2009 shooting in a tea house in which three people allegedly were killed and two bystanders injured, to more easily politicized incidents. Xinhua writes that in 1998, an associate of Liu Han’s killed a man protesting a new real estate development in Xiaodao Village, Mianyang. Liu is also accused of killing an old neighbor of his family’s who Xinhua claims was killed over “dog minding fees.”
During his trial, Liu explained that he conducted his business with the aid of Communist Party officials–among them, Zhou Yongkang. He would invest in “very urgent projects for the government,” he explained, while making a profit and helping the government.
Liu was arrested in March 2013, and no notice was given to his corporation, Sichuan Jinlu Group, which announced it had begun a search for its “missing” chairman. The Chinese government reported that he had been arrested while on a business trip to Beijing. Liu and his brother were put on trial in late March of that year, along with the other alleged associates of the gang.