Zhou Chengjian, a Chinese textile industrialist with a net worth of nearly three billion dollars, was reported as missing. Chengjian is a 51-year-old founder and chairman of a leading fashion apparel chain called Shanghai Metersbonwe, and he joins a growing list of bankers, businessmen and officials who have “disappeared” – potentially as part of sweeping, anti-corruption campaigns.
Reports Forbes on Jan. 8: “Reports in the Chinese media suspect Zhou was picked up by the police, some asserting the reason is his association with fund manager Xu Xiang, who was arrested in November for insider trading. According to the stories, Xu’s firm Zexi Investment made close to $70 million profit from trading Metersbonwe’s shares in about a half year until April 2015.”
Chengjian’s company confirmed his disappearance on Thursday, and trading of Metersbonwe’s shares have been suspended on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange.
The disappearance of Zhou Chengjian comes less than a month after a fellow billionaire named Guo Guangchang – known as the ‘Chinese Warren Buffet’ – also disappeared. It was later revealed that Guangchang had traveled to the U.S. and was assisting investigators with a concern with his “personal affairs.”
Authorities in the ever-secretive provinces in China’s financial sector have been targeting officials and company heads as they crack down on corruption and corporate graft – a form of political corruption that leverages economic authority for personal gain.
Metersbonwe released a statement on Thursday morning, which read: “In regard to the news around Mr Zhou Chengjian, the actual controller and Chairman of Shanghai Metersbonwe, the company has followed the regulations set by the Notice of the Shenzhen Stock Exchange and applied to suspend trading the shares on January 7, 2016.” Shares continued to be suspended Friday as well.
Per Chinese media, insiders claim Zhou Chengjian was hauled away by police on January 6.
His apparel chain was launched in 1995; today it operates nearly 2,000 stores across China and employs nearly 5,000 workers.
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According to the Hurun Report – China’s version of the Forbes 500 list – Chengjian is the second wealthiest person in China. The son of a poor potato farmer, Chengjian saved money and enlisted tailors to make clothes that he then sold.
Adds the SpreadIt: “The family often went weeks with one chicken leg, which sat on a big bowl of noodles just for flavor but never consumed. At the age of 12, he dropped out of school and worked in carpentry and bricklaying, and as a tailor. At 14, he had saved over $40,000 and started trading antique silver coins. However, as the trade was illegal, the money was confiscated, and since he was too young to go to jail for it, his father spent a year in prison.”
In a second statement issued late Thursday, Metersbonwe said they have not had any contact with Zhou Chengjian or the company’s secretary of the board of directors.