'Fugitive' wealth manager reassures investors

SHANGHAI • The head of a Chinese wealth management firm who allegedly fled with more than US$150 million (S$203 million) in investors' money surfaced in an online video yesterday, saying he will "be right back", as police looked for him.

Mr Yang Weiguo, chairman of conglomerate Wangzhou Group, disappeared last week, leaving thousands of investors unpaid, the official Xinhua news agency reported late on Sunday.

A wealth management subsidiary which Mr Yang manages, Wangzhou Fortune, has experienced cash flow problems since mid-April, the report said.

Wangzhou Fortune, which has operations in several cities including Shanghai and Hangzhou, issued a statement last week saying Mr Yang had vanished and the company had reported the case to the police.

But, in a video posted by the 21st Century Business Herald, Mr Yang told investors not to worry. "Hello everyone, it's me," said a man in a suit jacket and open-necked dress shirt identified as Mr Yang. "Don't worry, I will be right back," he added.

In a separate statement published by the newspaper, he denied any wrongdoing.

ALLAYING FEARS?

Hello everyone, it's me. Don't worry, I will be right back.

YANG WEIGUO, chairman of conglomerate Wangzhou Group, who disappeared last week.

Wangzhou Group's businesses include logistics, media, finance and hotels, according to its website. It has more than 100 branches in over 50 cities.

The case is the latest involving alleged financial fraud to emerge in China as the economy slows, sometimes leaving investment firms struggling to pay out promised returns.

Earlier this month, police detained more than 20 managers of the Zhongjin group of finance companies, including its head, at the airport as he apparently tried to flee the country on a chartered plane.

Another wealth management firm, Shanghai-based Jinlu Financial Advisors, has also struggled to repay investors, causing them to besiege its office.

In another scandal, peer-to- peer lending firm Ezubao bilked 900,000 investors out of US$7.6 billion by offering high interest rates which it was unable to pay, in what one executive described in a televised confession as a "typical Ponzi scheme".

AGENCE FRANCE- PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2016, with the headline ''Fugitive' wealth manager reassures investors'. Print Edition | Subscribe