China police believe missing tycoon was helping fugitive brother

 

Police disclosed today that a Chinese tycoon whose disappearance threatened to disrupt deals with mining companies in the United States and Australia is being held on suspicion he helped hide a brother who is a murder suspect.

A newspaper reported this week that Liu Han, chairman of Sichuan Hanlong Group, was detained in mid-March by police in Beijing but a two-sentence statement Friday by the police ministry was the first official word about him.

Liu is under investigation on charges of harboring a fugitive and other unspecified "serious offenses," the statement said. It announced the capture of his brother as a "major murder suspect" but gave no other details.

Police spokespeople in Chengdu, where Liu lives, said they had no more information. Phone calls to the police ministry in Beijing were not answered.

Liu's company said this week it was unable to reach him by phone.

Hanlong owns a 13 percent stake in General Moly, a miner of molybdenum, a mineral used to harden steel. Hanlong was arranging financing for a mine in Nevada.

General Moly said Wednesday it had suspended work on a $665 million loan for its Mt. Hope mine from the state-run China Development Bank until it receives clarification from Hanlong.

Hanlong also owns 14 percent of Australia's Sundance Resources, which is developing an iron mine in Congo and neighboring Cameroon in central Africa.

Hanlong is offering 1.5 billion Australian dollars ($1.5 billion) to acquire the rest of the company. Sundance said this week the deal has yet to receive final approval from China's economic planning agency.

Sundance asked Wednesday for trading in its shares on Australian markets to be suspended while it sought information about Liu.

Liu was No. 148 last year on Forbes magazine's list of the richest Chinese businesspeople, with a fortune estimated at $855 million.

Hanlong was founded in 1997 and has interests in mining, construction of hydroelectric power, highway and tourism infrastructure and other businesses with a total workforce of more than 12,000 people, according to its website

It is part of a wave of Chinese energy and mining companies that are buying assets abroad in Australia, Africa and elsewhere in hopes of profiting from growing global demand.

Liu also is chairman of Sichuan Jinlu Group, which produces polyvinyl chloride and other chemicals.

Liu told The Wall Street Journal in 2010 that an investor once shot up his car after suffering losses in a deal. He called himself "Liu Han, the only survivor."

AP

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