BEIJING Feb 24 Chinese authorities are looking
for a former drinks tycoon who bribed his way out of jail and
fled the country after being sentenced to 15 years in prison for
embezzling millions of dollars in public funds, state media said
Zhang Hai, former president and chief executive of the
sports drink maker Jianlibao Group, was found guilty of
misappropriating 206 million yuan ($33.82 million) in 2007.
But through bribery and the fabrication of documents to
prove his good behaviour, Zhang was released in 2011 and
promptly went overseas with his girlfriend, Huang Lu, the
official Xinhua news agency reported.
"Related departments are now trying to arrest and extradite
Zhang and Huang," Xinhua said, citing a statement from the state
prosecutor's office, without saying which country they are
suspected of having gone to.
A total of 24 others were being or have been investigated in
connection with Zhang's release, including 11 in the judiciary
and prison service, a court official and two lawyers, Xinhua
Four of them had already been jailed for up to six years,
while Zhang's reduced sentence has been revoked, the news agency
The Jianlibao Group, based in the southern province of
Guangdong, was one of the nation's most prominent sports drink
manufacturers and once ran a top-flight soccer club in the
boomtown of Shenzhen, bordering Hong Kong.
Prosecutors said Zhang used the company's money under his
name to cover for loans from several other companies before he
moved to Jianlibao.
Zhang was ranked as the 137th richest person in China on the
Forbes’ 2004 Rich List, though dropped off it after he was
President Xi Jinping has stepped up the battle against
deep-rooted graft since assuming power last year, and has begun
to target corruption in the business community as well as the
government and state-owned industries.
Last week, prosecutors charged Liu Han, the former chairman
of Hanlong Mining, which attempted to take over Australia's
Sundance Resources Ltd, with crimes including murder,
gun-running and fraud.
($1 = 6.0914 yuan)
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)