The billionaire businessman was found to have cheated investors and embezzled huge sums as head of his insurance conglomerate.

By Joe McDonough

Posted on May 11, 2018

The founder and former chairman of beleaguered Chinese financial giant Anbang has been jailed for 18 years over fraud and embezzlement.

Wu Xiaohui pleaded guilty to fraudulently fundraising billions from investors while head of the insurance company that has an expansive portfolio including New York City’s Waldorf Hotel.

As well as Shanghai’s No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court sentencing Wu to almost two decades behind bars, Xinhua reports he will also have to forfeit his political rights for four years, 10.5 billion yuan ($1.7 billion) of his assets, and anything else obtained illegally.

In March, a month after China’s insurance regulator announced it was seizing control of Anbang’s operations, the 52-year-old was shown on China Central Television admitting to his guilt.

Who is Wu Xiaohui?

From a humble upbringing in a village in east China’s Zhejiang province, Wu started Anbang from scratch as a car insurance company.

And one of his early business partners was Chen Xiaolu, the son of a People’s Liberation Army marshal from the first decades of Communist rule, Chen Yi.

During Wu’s second marriage, Chen introduced him to Deng Zhuorui — the granddaughter of Deng Xiaoping, China’s paramount leader in the 1980s, and they married not long after.

He then had a number of powerbrokers in his corner. And by 2017, after widening the scope of his business interests and through aggressive acquisitions, had built up his Anbang empire to be worth 1.97 trillion yuan (US$310.9 billion) in assets and rank 139 on the 2017 Global Fortune 500 list.

As the South China Morning Post mused, “His rise was closely tied to what were once some of the biggest names in China’s political circles. His fall also tracked the decline of those once-celebrated families, and the reshuffle of the country’s ruling elite.”

“Wu is smart and hardworking. But he tended to forget about his identity of late. He forgot he was the senior manager chosen by a powerful group to make money, and mistook himself as the power itself. That’s what caused this tragedy,” a long-time business partner of Wu told SCMP.