Chinese billionaire indicted in US for alleged $1.8 billion metal tariff evasion
Prosecutors said the alleged scheme began as early as 2008, and eventually involved efforts to escape duties imposed by the U.S. Department of Commerce in 2011 on various types of extruded aluminium imported from China.Updated: Aug 01, 2019 08:41 IST
A Chinese billionaire has been indicted by a grand jury on charges he schemed with the aluminium company he founded to evade $1.8 billion of tariffs by smuggling huge amounts of the metal into the United States, federal prosecutors said on Wednesday.
Liu Zhongtian, 55, and China Zhongwang Holdings Ltd <1333.HK>, where he served as chairman and president, were among several defendants charged in a 24-count indictment by the Los Angeles grand jury.
The May 7 indictment had been kept under seal until late Tuesday. It came as U.S. and Chinese negotiators resumed talks to end trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies.
China Zhongwan did not immediately respond to a request for comment outside normal business hours.
Liu is believed to be in China, which does not have an extradition treaty with the United States, and an arrest warrant has been drawn up, according to The Wall Street Journal. It was unclear whether Liu has a U.S.-based lawyer. Liu and his family are worth $3.2 billion, Forbes magazine said.
Prosecutors said the alleged scheme began as early as 2008, and eventually involved efforts to escape duties imposed by the U.S. Department of Commerce in 2011 on various types of extruded aluminium imported from China.
The indictment said companies affiliated with Liu went through ports in the Los Angeles area to import aluminium extrusions that were “tack-welded” together, to appear as finished “pallets” that were not subject to duties.
Prosecutors said Liu would then stockpile the aluminium at four southern California warehouses, and with his associates orchestrate bogus sales to companies he controlled to inflate China Zhongwang’s financials and make it appear more valuable.
Liu, also known as “Big Boss” and “Uncle Liu” according to the indictment, was also accused by prosecutors of running a “massive” money laundering operation involving the use of shell companies to transfer funds to China Zhongwang.
U.S. authorities said the scheme gave Liu’s companies an unfair advantage over American rivals and posed other hazards.
“Our national security is jeopardized when domestic industry loses its ability to develop and supply products for U.S. defense and critical infrastructure applications, forcing us to become dependent on unreliable imports,” Joseph Macias, special agent in charge for homeland security investigations in Los Angeles, said in a statement.
Liu and several other defendants face charges of wire fraud, money laundering, passing fraudulent papers through a customhouse and conspiracy.
Most counts carry a maximum 20-year prison term, and if served consecutively carry a maximum 465-year term.
The case is U.S. v Liu et al, U.S. District Court, Central District of California, No. 19-cr-00282.
(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.)