Ex-Hanlong exec, wanted in Australia, seeks asylum in Hong Kong

HONG KONG (REUTERS) - A former executive of China's Hanlong Mining Investment Pty Ltd, wanted in Australia for alleged insider trading, is seeking asylum in Hong Kong, a court heard on Thursday, a process that could delay his extradition by several years.

Xiao Hui, also known as Steven Xiao, is wanted in relation to 104 offences linked to Hanlong's 2011 takeover bids for Australia's Sundance Resources Ltd and Bannerman Resources Ltd.

During an insider trading investigation in Australia, Xiao was permitted to leave the country for a short visit back to China in November 2011 but did not return. He was arrested in Hong Kong in January.

In February, Xiao applied to authorities to be granted asylum in Hong Kong, according to his lawyer Robert Tibbo, who said it could take five years or more for his case to be resolved.

That means that even if the court rules to have Xiao extradited to Australia, he cannot be removed from Hong Kong until the outcome of the asylum application, Tibbo added.

Xiao was refused bail again at Thursday's hearing but will make another bail request on March 24. His defence team will also apply on that day to have the extradition case adjourned until the asylum application goes through.

Hanlong is the biggest shareholder of Africa-focused Sundance. A proposed A$1.4 billion (S$1.6 billion) takeover of Sundance by Hanlong was called off last April after Hanlong missed funding deadlines.

Uranium explorer Bannerman ended talks on a A$143 million offer from Hanlong in late 2011 because of similar funding issues.

Another former Hanlong executive, Bo Shi Zhu, also known as Calvin Zhu, was sentenced in 2013 to jail in Australia for two years and three months, having pleaded guilty to three counts of insider trading between 2006 and 2011.

Zhu and Xiao, who stood down from their roles at Hanlong when the insider trading probe began in September 2011, were among several company executives the Australian Securities and Investments Commission investigated.

Separately, former Hanlong chairman Liu Han has been charged in China with crimes including gun-running and murder, in one of the country's highest-profile cases against a private businessman since Xi Jinping became president last year vowing to battle corruption.

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