Tycoon in China Fights Fraud Verdict, but Odds Are Long

Human rights groups have long criticized the Chinese justice system for the prevalence of forced confessions, which those accused sometimes later disavow. Chinese officials sometimes use them for propaganda purposes, in order to make public examples of the accused.

Defendants may have little choice. Historically, China’s conviction rate has hovered at well above 90 percent, though more recent statistics are harder to come by. Between 2013 and 2017, Chinese trial courts convicted more than six million suspects in about 5.5 million cases. Only about 6,700 were reopened and retried.

In Mr. Wu’s case, he was charged with misleading investors with false financial statements and promotional materials, among other accusations.

Tycoon in China Fights Fraud Verdict, but Odds Are Long
Tycoon in China Fights Fraud Verdict, but Odds Are Long

Prosecutors said Mr. Wu had helped design investment-type insurance products and then misled regulators in efforts to raise money from the public. By the beginning of 2017 the company had sold $116.5 billion of the products, far more than the amount the government had approved. China has been trying to rein in such borrowing, which it fears could destabilize the economy.

Because of the company’s sprawling international holdings, the seizure sent shock waves as far as Canada, where the company had purchased a chain of retirement homes, and Amsterdam, where it had bought an insurance company.

Anbang has said that Mr. Wu has been relieved from all duties as chairman of the company and that its operations are under state supervision.

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