Huang Guangyu, once China's richest man, has been formally indicted today on charges of insider trading, illegal business dealings and bribery, according to a Wall Street Journal article this morning that you can read HERE. Huang Guangyu was the founder of Gome, a home appliance and electronics retailer that was sort of like a Chinese version of Best Buy. Though Gome's emphasis on low prices and the extreme personal wealth that accrued to its founder as a result of its success would probably make Walmart a closer American equivalent, really.
I was living in Hong Kong in November 2008 when the news broke that he had abruptly disappeared off the streets of Shanghai, leaving his huge business empire suddenly leaderless. Rumors swirled in the press that he had been arrested on corruption charges, charges that might also touch the top of the Chinese government. The nearest US equivalent would be if the founder of Walmart, Sam Walton, had been arrested by the FBI on charges of widespread bribery and collusion with corrupt White House officials. That seems borderline inconceivable to us.
On a personal level, this is a stunning, Icarus-like fall for a rags-to-riches entrepreneur who was until recently one of China's most famous and revered men. But it's also a stark illustration of how endemic high-level corruption remains in China, despite seemingly endless initiatives by the Communist party there to try to stamp it out.