Chinese Mining Tycoon Liu Han Faces Gang Murder Trial
Chinese Mining Tycoon Liu Han Faces Gang Murder TrialReuters

A former Chinese mining tycoon will appear in court today facing charges that include nine counts of murder, gun-running and extortion. The trial takes place in Xianning, Hubei province.

The appearance of Liu Han, who allegedly ran a 36 strong criminal gang for over two decades, marks the first public trial linked to the investigation into retired security overlord Zhou Yongkang.

Liu Han, the former chairman of Hanlong Group, was once ranked the 230th richest man in China.

Liu, 48, faces 15 charges, including murder, financial crimes, running casinos and illegally selling firearms, which garnered close to $7bn, according to the South China Morning Post. His younger brother Lui Yong is also involved in criminal activities.

The probe into Liu marks one of the highest-profile cases against a private businessman since President Xi Jinping took power last year, vowing to crack down on corruption.

Hanlong Group made ripples last year as it attempted to take over Australia's Sundance Resources Ltd. Its proposed £777m (€940m, $1.3bn) deal for Sundance, a West-African focused iron ore explorer, was eventually called off after Hanlong missed funding deadlines.

Sources claim that Liu was also a business partner of Zhou Bin, Zhou Yongkang's eldest son, who is also at the centre of China's biggest corruption scandal in more than 60 years.

Authorities have seized assets worth at least £8.7m from family members and associates of Zhou Yongkang as part of the investigation, including assets belonging to Liu Han.

The government has yet to make any official statement about Zhou Yongkang or the case against him. Zhou rose through the ranks of China's oil and gas sector before joining the elite Politburo Standing Committee in 2007, where, as domestic security chief, his budget exceeded defence spending.

The elder Zhou has been under virtual house arrest since the authorities began formally investigating him late last year.

The trial is expected to last for more than a week, with a break for the three day Qing Ming holidays.