China punishes taxmen who investigated superstar Fan Bingbing

Fan Bingbing has been ordered to pay 883 million yuan (S$176.48 million) in back taxes, fines and penalties. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (AFP) - Officials who investigated Chinese superstar Fan Bingbing for tax evasion have been punished for "poor management", state media reported on Monday (Oct 8).

At least five people have been disciplined, including the head of the taxation bureau in the eastern city of Wuxi, where Fan's company is based, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The State Administration of Taxation has instructed the provincial tax bureau in Jiangsu to "hold accountable" those involved in Fan's case for poor management, Xinhua said, before going on to list a number of individuals who have been issued with official and verbal warnings about their shortcomings.

But the statement offered little detail about what led to the punishment.

Last week, tax authorities ordered Fan to pay 883 million yuan (S$176.5 million) in back taxes, fines and penalties, adding that she would avoid incarceration if she pays up in time.

The 36-year-old actress, model and producer had been a ubiquitous household name in China for years and tasted Hollywood success with a role in the 2014 blockbuster X-Men: Days Of Future Past.

Last year, she topped Forbes magazine's list of top-earning Chinese celebrities with income of 300 million yuan.

A prolific social media user, she disappeared from the public eye in May, after allegations emerged that she evaded taxes on a lucrative movie shoot, charges her studio called slander.

Her sudden absence from screens and advertisements across the country spurred rumours that she had been snatched by officials at a time when Beijing is cracking down on what it views as excesses in the film and television industry.

A number of well-known Chinese figures have gone missing in recent years, only to resurface weeks or months later in a courtroom accused of corruption.

The highest-profile figure to face such a fate is former Interpol president Meng Hongwei, who was on Monday accused of taking bribes.

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