As reported by Vino Joy, Qu Naijie, the founder of China's Haichang Group, is facing serious charges. He is accused of diverting €32m in state subsidies, originally meant for digitalisation investments in his company, towards acquiring 25 wineries in Bordeaux, primarily between 2010 and 2013. The prosecution alleges that a network of offshore companies was used to obscure these transactions, and the accounting firm Exco Ecaf is also charged with complicity.
The properties in question are mainly located in Libournais and are estimated to be worth around €60m in total. Qu is well-connected in Bordeaux, being a member of the prestigious wine brotherhood La Commanderie du Bontemps and having been associated with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
In addition to the embezzlement of state funds, Qu is accused of using falsified sales invoices to secure an additional loan of €30m from the Luxembourg subsidiary of a Chinese bank. However, it's reported that this loan has since been repaid.
No blank slate
The Haichang Group had previously faced allegations of misusing public funds during China's anti-corruption campaign in 2014, led by President Xi Jinping. Qu himself came under the French authorities' scrutiny in 2018 when they seized ten of his properties due to suspected financial irregularities in their acquisition. While it's noted that he was arrested for corruption in China in 2016, the charges were reportedly dropped in 2020, according to Vino Joy. Qu continues to deny any wrongdoing. VM