Lai Changxing (Chinese: 赖昌星), born in September 1958, is the chief suspect in a multibillion-dollar smuggling operation that dates back to the 1990s in the southeastern city of Xiamen, east China's Fujian Province.
The notorious case has involved more than 50 billion yuan of smuggling and embroiled dozens of high-ranking government officials. And Lai Changxing is the man behind all this.
In the early 1990s, Lai, who was then a farmer in eastern China's Fujian Province illegally acquired Hong Kong residency through fake ID and set up Yuanhua Group, which later, became the center for his multi-billion-yuan dirty business.
To build up his smuggling net, Lai used every trick in the book. In the mid-1990s, He rented a dock, built a large storehouse and bribed local customs officials to provide cover.
In just three years between 1996 and 1999, Lai and his corporation smuggled products worth 53 billion yuan into China and evaded taxes of more than 30 billion yuan.
More than 4.5 million tons of oil found its way into the Chinese market in three years and a super oil tanker would arrive at Xiamen, a major harbor city in Fujian Province every three days.
About 20 containers of cigarettes pulled into shore every day and some 8,000 luxury cars entered China over three years and were even publicly put up for sale.
In 1999, his business was unmasked, sending shock-waves across the nation.
More than 600 people have been found to take part in these cases, including 100 government officials. 14 of them have been sentenced to the death penalty.
The Chinese government was determined to bring the initiator to justice, but Lai managed to escape to Hong Kong together with his wife and three children and then to Canada. Lai tried to obtain refugee status in order to evade the law. Canadian authorities, however, ruled that Lai should not be considered a refugee and upheld his deportation, paving the way for his return to China.
Lai was repatriated back to China on July 23, 2011, 12 years after being on the run in Canada. Chinese police announced his arrest, and read him his rights, including hiring lawyers to defend him, at Beijing Capital International Airport.
On May 18, 2012, Lai was sentenced to life imprisonment for smuggling and bribery by the Intermediate People's Court of Xiamen. The court deprived his political rights for life and confiscated all his personal assets.