May 31, 2018 / 6:30 AM / 2 months ago

Former chairman of China's Anbang appeals fraud conviction

BEIJING (Reuters) - The former chairman of China’s Anbang Insurance Group Co [ANBANG.UL], Wu Xiaohui, has lodged an appeal against his conviction for fraud and embezzlement that led to a sentence of 18 years in prison, his lawyers said.

FILE PHOTO: Chairman of Anbang Insurance Group Wu Xiaohui attends the China Development Forum in Beijing, China March 18, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo

While not unknown, it is unusual for convicted suspects in high-profile cases in China to appeal. The news comes on the same day that China’s top court, in a rare reversal, declared the founder of retailer Wumart innocent, overturning a decade-old conviction for fraud and bribery.

Wu, who steered the insurance giant as it became one of China’s most aggressive dealmakers, was put on trial in late March, charged with illegal fundraising worth 65.2 billion yuan ($10.2 billion) and embezzling 10 billion yuan from its insurance fund.

The government took control of Anbang in February, part of a sweeping campaign to reduce financial risk and discourage what it sees as profligate investing by large private conglomerates.

Li Guifang, a lawyer best known for defending Chinese politician Bo Xilai in a blockbuster corruption trial in 2013, and fellow lawyer Chen Youxi have been hired for the appeal.

The Shanghai High People’s Court has started preparations for a review, they said.

A state takeover group will control Anbang for at least one year to overhaul its equity structure, seek fresh capital from strategic investors in the private sector and dispose some of its assets.

Anbang brokerage Century Securities was put up for sale this month with a price tag of at least $560 million - the first of the planned asset sales.

Reporting by Shu Zhang and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Edwina Gibbs

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