Taiwan charges Hong Kong execs with money laundering, is probing spying claims

Lawrence Chung
·3 min read

Two executives of a Hong Kong-listed company who have been held in Taiwan amid spying allegations since late 2019 have been charged with money laundering as Taiwanese prosecutors continue to investigate whether they had engaged in national security-related crimes on the island.

Xiang Xin, chief executive of Hong Kong-based China Innovation Investment Limited, and his wife Kung Ching, an alternate director, were indicted on a charge of money laundering on Thursday, the Taipei District Prosecutors Office said.

“The two were found to have used HK$203 million (US$26 million) gained illicitly from China to buy three apartments in Taipei,” prosecutor Chen Yu-ping said.

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A statement by the office said the couple – Chinese citizens who had been resident in Hong Kong – received that sum in February 2016 through a mainland Chinese financial group that was found guilty of fraud by a mainland court for illegally raising funds on the mainland.

The two later transferred the money from their Hong Kong bank account to a Taipei bank, and used the fund to buy the high-end flats in Taipei’s plush Xinyi district, according to the office.

Prosecutors recommended that the court confiscate the properties allegedly brought through the alleged money laundering, the office said.

The indictment came with travel restrictions on the couple set to expire next week. Prosecutors had barred them from leaving Taiwan and since late November have repeatedly sought to extend the restrictions.

They were about to board a flight at Taipei’s Taoyuan airport on the evening of November 24 when they were taken away by investigators who wanted them to assist in the investigation of allegations that they acted as a front for mainland Chinese intelligence agencies working to undercut democracy in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The allegations came after Wang Liqiang, a self-proclaimed former mainland Chinese spy who was seeking political asylum in Australia, told Australian news media that he worked for Xiang’s company and took part in intelligence operations that included buying media coverage, creating thousands of social media accounts to attack Taiwan’s governing Democratic Progressive Party, and funnelling donations to favoured candidates of main opposition party the Kuomintang.

Wang also claimed the mainland Chinese government had been using the company as a front to interfere with politics in Hong Kong by infiltrating universities, political groups and media companies.

On Thursday, Taipei prosecutors said they were still investigating whether the couple had violated the island’s national security act.

Xiang and Kung, who have engaged Taiwanese lawyers, have denied any wrongdoing. China Innovation Investment has also denied that Wang was one of its employees.

The mainland government has said that Wang was a fugitive in a fraud case and that his Chinese passport and Hong Kong permanent resident identity card were forged. The Australian government said it was investigating the case.

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