Report: ‘Shanghai Association in Brazil’ VP Charged with Stealing $3 Million of Coronavirus Supplies

Marcos Zheng
Palácio dos Bandeirantes

A Chinese official tasked with promoting ties of “friendship” between Beijing and Brazil was arrested this weekend on suspicion of stealing 15,000 test kits and millions of sets of protective gear, Brazil’s Estadão newspaper reported.

Zheng Xiao Yun, otherwise known as Marcos Zheng, reportedly serves as the President of the Shanghai Association in Brazil, where he regularly mediates meetings between Chinese bankers and businessmen and Brazilian politicians. Following the outbreak of the coronavirus, Zheng has also reportedly mediated meetings between hospitals in São Paulo and doctors in Wuhan to help exchange information on the virus, which has already killed 1,270 people in Brazil and infected nearly 23,000.

On Saturday, police raided the offices of the Shanghai Association in Brazil, where Zheng also serves as president. Police reportedly found thousands of tests and millions of personal protective gear kits, most of which match cargo recently stolen at Sāo Paulo airport.

Police also reportedly encountered his bodyguards, a former military policeman and a sergeant in the Brazilian Army Reserve, who were both armed with rifles. Zheng has maintained they are necessary because he has previously been robbed, kidnapped, and even spent five days in captivity, Estadao reported.

Upon his arrest, Zheng reportedly insisted that he had no knowledge of owning such products and that he was involved in selling sound equipment. His version of events reportedly failed to convince the Public Ministry and the Justice, where a judge remarked upon his “audacity” consequently ordered his indefinite imprisonment.

Estadão gained exclusive access to the investigations that led to Zheng’s arrest and found that he would profit by up to 5000 percent from selling the products on the black market. Prosecutors reportedly claim that he successfully seized the cargo on April 2 following the arrival of a Qatar Airways flight at Guarulhos International Airport carrying 57 packages of rapid coronavirus testing kits imported from China by a company contracted by hospitals to supply the items.

The association testified to his character, describing him as a “good citizen who has made a significant contribution to establishing the bond of friendship between Brazil and China.”

The incident will likely raise further questions about Chinese influence in Brazil, an issue that President Jair Bolsonaro campaigned on during the 2018 election, but has done little to mitigate since. On a visit to China last year, Bolsonaro declared last year that “Brazil needs China” after signing eight new trade agreements.

Last week, tensions flared after the Brazilian Minister of Education Abraham Weintraub mocked Chinese accents in Portuguese and accused Beijing of being on a quest for “world domination.” He then refused to apologize, saying he would only offer an apology if Beijing offered to sell 1,000 respirators to Brazil.

Communist state media has previously published articles dismissing Brazilian culture as too inferior to the Chinese to be viable for industry, although “it may sound racist.”

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