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China's highest-profile fugitive assailed by businessman who says he was framed for crimes
September 19, 2017 / 6:07 AM / in a month

China's highest-profile fugitive assailed by businessman who says he was framed for crimes

FILE PHOTO: Billionaire businessman Guo Wengui speaks during an interview in New York City, U.S., April 30, 2017. Picture taken April 30, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s highest profile fugitive, exiled billionaire Guo Wengui, is under attack from a former business partner who claims Guo got him framed for crimes he says he did not commit.

After having a conviction for embezzling 855 million yuan ($130 million) from a company owned by Guo quashed, Qu Long told Reuters he is out for revenge.

“When he returns I will sue him in China,” Qu said of Guo, two days after being released from jail where he served six years of a 15-year sentence. “If he can’t return, I will sue him in the United States. As long as he is on the face of this Earth, I will find a lawyer and make him pay.”

In its ruling last Tuesday, the Hebei High People’s Court said there was not enough evidence to support the embezzlement conviction.

Qu’s interview with Reuters was arranged by the Chinese authorities, who also provided briefings by three members of a special police taskforce investigating Guo, who is living in New York. Chinese officials told Reuters they wanted to get Qu’s narrative out through the Western media to counteract a barrage of internet postings by Guo.

The officials and police involved in the case told Reuters that after an investigation that began in 2015 they had discovered that the charges against Qu were fabricated by Guo and government officials Guo had allegedly bribed, including Ma Jian, the former counter-intelligence chief at China’s spy agency, the Ministry of State Security.

Ma was put under investigation for alleged corruption in 2015 and was expelled from the Communist Party the following year. He remains in detention and Reuters was unable to reach him for comment.

Guo did not respond to requests for comment about Qu. Guo’s New York-based lawyer, Josh Schiller, said Qu’s threat was “further persecution of Guo in order to silence his speech”.

Guo, who left China in late 2014 shortly before Ma was detained, has previously denied bribing government officials and says accusations levelled against him are politically motivated.

The police and other Chinese officials who talked to Reuters provided no evidence to support their bribery assertions in the case. Reuters was unable to independently confirm whether Guo engaged in any wrongdoing.

BATTLE FOR MINDS

Guo is currently living in a $68 million apartment overlooking Manhattan from where he has been using social media to make a series of incendiary, though mostly unverifiable, claims of corruption in the top levels of the Chinese government. His campaign has been timed for maximum impact ahead of next month’s critical congress of the ruling Communist Party, which is held only once every five years.    

The Chinese authorities are trying to repatriate Guo, who applied for U.S. political asylum earlier this month. In April, at Beijing’s request, Interpol issued a ‘red notice’ seeking Guo’s arrest on corruption-related charges.     

The same month, a video confession from Ma surfaced online, detailing 10 instances where he claimed he abused his power to benefit Guo in exchange for more than 60 million yuan in bribes, including conspiring to detain and frame Qu.       

Guo has said Ma’s testimony should not be believed, arguing it was likely coerced or made under duress. Reuters was unable to independently confirm the events that Ma cited.

Guo and Qu were once friends and business partners, having first met two decades ago and, according to Qu, bonding quickly over a mutual love of motorcycles and sports cars. The two men fell out over a dispute related to the ownership of Tianjin Huatai, an investment holding company, with Guo claiming Qu had reneged on an agreement to hand over control of the company.

Qu was initially detained on suspicion of possessing firearms and he was eventually sentenced on the embezzlement charges. Qu denied any wrongdoing.

Reporting by Philip Wen; Editing by Martin Howell

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