Chinese businessman Qu Naijie, founder of Dalian-based Haichang Group, has been summoned to appear at the tribunal correctionel in February 2024 alongside two other accused parties, confirmed a source at the French government’s financial prosecutor’s office (PNF) in Paris.
It’s a case that relates to the alleged misuse of Chinese state funds to purchase Bordeaux châteaux several years ago, according to French newspaper Sud-Ouest.
The PNF source told Decanter a decision to summon defendants to a criminal court hearing followed a preliminary investigation into suspected money laundering, embezzlement of public funds and aggravated tax fraud.
This was linked to the acquisition of Bordeaux vineyards, and it includes the suspected misuse of an estimated €30m in public funds.
A court hearing, initially envisaged to take place in August 2023, is now set to run from 12 to 15 February 2024.
Maxime Delhomme, lawyer for Qu, said his client denies wrongdoing. ‘I confirm that Mr Qu is contesting the fraud [allegations] that the PNF is trying to formulate,’ he told Decanter.
He said that news of a court hearing has put the case back in the spotlight. He described it as an old story, of which the origins ‘remain obscure’.
The specific vineyards related to the investigation have not been named, although it’s been widely reported that Qu and Haichang Group bought a series of properties in Bordeaux in the early 2010s.
In 2018, French authorities seized 10 Bordeaux wine properties in connection with an investigation into the vineyard acquisitions of Haichang Group, although day-to-day wine operations at the properties continued as normal, as reported by Decanter.
In 2014, China’s National Audit Office named Dalian-based conglomerate Haichang Group and another Dalian-based company as having allegedly diverted CNY268m (£25m at the time) of government funds to purchase Bordeaux vineyards, according to a previous report by Decanter China. However, at the time, no charges were reported to have been brought.