BEIJING (Reuters) - Prosecutors in central China on Thursday charged the former chairman of Hanlong Mining, which had tried to take over Australia’s Sundance Resources Ltd, with murder, gun-running and other crimes as part of a “mafia-style” gang.
Police last year announced the detention of Liu Han and an investigation into his younger brother Liu Yong - also known as Liu Wei - on suspicion of various criminal activities.
In a report carried by the official Xinhua news agency, prosecutors in the central province of Hubei said the two Lius set up the gang in 1993, along with 34 others, which “carried out a vast number of criminal activities”.
The gang was responsible for nine murders, the report said.
“Those charged also came up with myriad ways to draw in and corrupt officials who worked for the state, seeking their protection, to consolidate and expand their influence on society,” Xinhua added.
“Liu Han, Liu Wei and the others formed, led and participated in mafia-style crimes, murder, assault, illegal detention, interference in state functions, affray, extortion, gambling, illegally buying and selling guns, illegal gun ownership ... (and) fraud.”
Reuters could not reach Hanlong for comment. It was also not possible to reach either of the brothers for comment.
The probe into Liu, ranked the 230th richest person in China by the Shanghai-based Hurun 2012 Report, marks one of the highest-profile cases against a private businessmen since President Xi Jinping took power last year, vowing to crack down on corruption.
The police investigation into the activities of Liu and his associates eventually spanned more than 10 provinces and cities, including the capital Beijing, Xinhua said.
Police seized thousands of bullets, plus 20 guns and three hand grenades, the report said, an unusual detail in a country where gun ownership is tightly controlled and gun crime rare.
State media reported last year that Liu was held for helping his brother Liu Yong evade capture over a 2009 triple murder.
Hanlong, based in southwestern Sichuan province, holds a majority interest in the Australian-listed iron ore miner Moly Mines and remains Sundance Resources’ biggest shareholder, though its proposed A$1.4 billion ($1.27 billion) takeover of Africa-focused Sundance was called off last April after Hanlong missed funding deadlines.
Uranium explorer Bannerman Resources Ltd ended talks on a A$143 million offer from Hanlong in late 2011 on similar funding hurdles.
Hanlong was also the principal financial backer and future customer of General Moly Inc’s $1.3 billion molybdenum mining project in the United States, in which Hanlong would help arrange a $665 million loan from the China Development Bank. General Moly terminated the sale agreement in August.
Last month, Australia said it was seeking to prosecute a former executive of Hanlong Mining on insider trading charges after he was arrested in Hong Kong, while its former investment director, Calvin Zhu, is serving a prison sentence in Australia for his role in an insider trading syndicate.
Liu Han was a member of Sichuan province’s government advisory body. He founded Hanlong Group in 1997, a conglomerate that has businesses spanning from solar energy to real estate and infrastructure.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Fayen Wong in SHANGHAI; Editing by Ron Popeski