Chinese property billionaire gets five years' jail for child molestation

FILE PHOTO: Future Land Development Holdings Ltd Chairman Wang Zhenhua attends an event marking the company's 25th founding anniversary in Changzhou, Jiangsu province, China July 7, 2018. Picture taken July 7, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

SHANGHAI/HONG KONG (Reuters) - The controlling shareholder and former chairman of Seazen Group 1030.HK, one of China's largest property developers, was sentenced on Wednesday to five years in prison after being convicted him of child molestation.

When Wang Zhenhua was arrested last July, shares in the company and its listed units nosedived. At the time, Seazen Group was China’s eighth-largest property developer by sales; it has since slipped to 13th place.

The Putuo District People’s Court in Shanghai issued the verdict after a two-day closed-door hearing, according to a statement published on its official WeChat account. Five years is the maximum jail term for child molestation.

Reuters was not able to reach Wang or Seazen Group for comment.

Wang's son, non-executive director Wang Xiaosong, was appointed chairman of Seazen Group's board after his father's arrest last year. Seazen Group's subsidiaries include Seazen Holdings Co Ltd 601155.SS and property management unit S-Enjoy Service Group Co Ltd 1755.HK.

However, Wang Zhenhua continues to hold about 70% of Seazen Group. The 2020 Hurun Global Rich List in March estimated Wang and his son’s net worth at around $6.1 billion.

Seazen sold some of its land parcels shortly after Wang’s arrest to improve its cash flow amid lenders’ worries.

Reporting by Brenda Goh in Shanghai and Clare Jim in Hong Kong; Editing by Kevin Liffey