Rise of Chinese whizzkid ends in lethal injection

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The Independent Online

Yuan Baojing's remarkable rise from rural poverty to the head of a multi-billion-pound investment group ended with a lethal injection. The stock market whizzkid has been executed for hiring his brother and cousins to murder a policeman turned hitman turned blackmailer.

It's New China's Scarface and Goodfellas, with a dash of Wall Street thrown in, and the 40-year-old tycoon's case has gripped the country's attention.

Yuan Baojing, his brother, Yuan Baoqi, and his cousin, Yuan Baosen, were executed on Friday after a trial in Liaoyang city, Liaoning province. Another cousin, Yuan Baofu, was also sentenced to death, but the sentence was suspended for two years, which means that, with good behaviour, he may yet escape death.

Even Yuan Baojing's sentence was in some doubt. Right up to the last minute, many feared that he would escape with his life. His wife, Zhuo Ma, a famous Tibetan dancer and professor at Beijing's Central University for Nationalities, insisted he had been wrongfully convicted, claiming inconsistencies in the way evidence was handled.

A day before he was to be executed in October, she transferred ownership of shares in an Indonesian oilfield, worth £3.5bn, to the government. That won a stay of execution - amid many public grumbles - until last week.

The future tycoon and murderer was born in 1966, the year Chairman Mao Tse-tung launched the Cultural Revolution. In those days, he could look forward to a life no better than that of his father, a poor worker in rural Liaoning.

But Mao died when Yuan was only 10. By the end of the 1970s, Deng Xiaoping had instituted a period of rapid economic advance that was to be the backdrop for Yuan's rise from rags to riches.

After he graduated from the Chinese University of Political Science and Law in Beijing in 1989, Yuan joined the securities department of the China Construction Bank in Huairou, a district of Beijing.

Three years later, after honing his market player skills at the bank, he quit and registered his own company, Jianhou Group, in Beijing. Within six months, he had made £140,000 profit which he successfully invested in the securities and bond markets.

He then became a corporate raider, buying over 60 companies. By 1996, he was worth over 3 billion yuan, (£212m), and had a fearsome reputation in the Chinese corporate arena, though he carefully avoided media attention.

His downfall began with the loss of £7m in failed trades on the futures exchange. He suspected that one of his friends and business associates, Liu Han, in cahoots with a broker in Sichuan province, had caused this loss.

Yuan met Wang Xing, a police officer at the time, in a Beijing hotel late in 1996 and Wang said he would murder Liu for £11,000. Wang subcontracted the job to Li Haiyang, who tracked Liu to a Sichuan hotel in February 1997 and fired two shots at him, but missed. Li fled but was later caught and jailed for life.

Soon after, the former policeman started asking Yuan for money, threatening to expose him for commissioning the attempted murder. That led Yuan Baoqi to suggested to his brother that they eliminate Wang. Yuan Baojing agreed, and gave him £21,000 to pay the contract killers, two of their cousins - Yuan Baofu and Yuan Baosen.

The cousins jumped Wang on 15 November 2001, stabbing him repeatedly and injuring him severely, but failing to kill him. Wang stepped up his blackmail efforts and so, in 2003, Yuan Baojing stumped up another £13,000 to have the job finished. The killers followed Wang home from a mahjong parlour near midnight on 4 October 2003 and shot him twice with a hunting rifle. This time, Wang went down for good.

But Wang was avenged. His former colleagues in the police traced the murder to the Yuans, leading to their conviction.