Missing Chinese Ultrasonic tycoon: Run off with millions? I was on holiday, says Wu Qingyong

 

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The Independent Online

The missing chief executive of embattled German-listed Chinese shoe-maker Ultrasonic has resurfaced in China to deny absconding with millions of pounds of company money, telling local media he had been travelling and lost his phone.

Wu Qingyong, who was dismissed last week after his abrupt disappearance, separately told an Ultrasonic executive he would return to the company and give back any funds, the firm said yesterday. It added, however, that its supervisory board had been unable to contact Mr Wu directly.

In an interview with Chinese news outlet Sina, Mr Wu said the whole matter was a misunderstanding and that he had simply been on holiday with his grandson and had lost his mobile phone.

“Rumours say that I took more than a billion [yuan]. This is pure rumour. No such thing has happened. The company’s financial situation remains normal,” Mr Wu said.

The company statement said Mr Wu had contacted the firm’s chief financial officer, Clifford Chan, and a German broker by phone over the weekend, saying that “he would return to the company and that he would also return the funds”. An official in the company’s human resources department, who gave only his family name Pi, told Reuters that senior executives had met on Sunday to discuss the reappearance of Mr Wu, who he said was planning to visit the firm’s facilities.

Wu Qingyong held just over 52 per cent of the company’s shares on 15 August this year, according to its first half financial report. The management board includes the elder Mr Wu, his son Wu Minghong and Mr Chan.

Attempts by Reuters to contact Wu Qingyong were unsuccessful. A man who picked up a phone number linked to Mr Wu said it was a wrong number. Mr Wu’s assistant at Ultrasonic was not immediately available for comment.

Ultrasonic said last Tuesday that Wu Qingyong and his son, chief operating officer Wu Minghong, had been missing since the weekend, and most of the company’s cash reserves in China and Hong Kong had vanished. On Thursday, the company said the pair had withdrawn the cash in two tranches.

In the seven-minute Sina interview, in which Mr Wu appeared with another son, Wu Mingjun, the elder Mr Wu added that he intended to investigate and track down those responsible for publishing the “announcement” and spreading the rumours.

Wu Mingjun said his brother had been very affected and was recovering, but gave no details of his whereabouts.

Ultrasonic’s shares more than doubled to around €2.30 in Frankfurt yesterday, but were still more than 60 per cent down from where they began last week.

The elder Mr Wu’s comments appear to conflict with the supervisory board of Ultrasonic, which formally dismissed him last Thursday, saying he and his son had drawn down a $60m (£37m) credit facility in August and transferred money to China from Hong Kong before disappearing.

Cathay United Bank, one of seven lenders, filed a police report in Hong Kong last Friday, according to a source from one of the lending banks. That came after an unsuccessful attempt a day earlier to file a report in mainland China.

Reuters

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