Society

Bad bet

Tycoon loses fortune in Macau

Somewhere around here Shi Yinyin blew it: Macau’s casinos

Lavish weddings are not only for British royalty, Chelsea Clinton and the stars of Bollywood. Shi Yinyin, the pampered son of a wealthy jeweller in Wuxi, Jiangsu, also knows how to put on a show.

Pictures of his wedding, which took place in February last year, show Shi’s bride decked out in layers of sparkling jewels. The groom then led a celebratory motorcade of super luxury cars through the local streets, including Bentleys, Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Porsches. The motorcade alone is reckoned to have set him back around Rmb50 million, says Xinhua.

Needless to say, most thought the wedding a little over the top. “Rmb50 million – I have never even seen that much money in my life. How many Rmb100 notes is that?” wrote one netizen mockingly. Another more caustic observation: “The parents must have made their fortune through bribery to throw a wedding like that.”

But a year on, it seems that lucky stars are no longer shining over the Shi family. In fact, the family is reported to have gone missing. Xinhua reported last week that Shi was suspected to have lost the entire family fortune and now his relatives have gone into hiding to evade the debt-collectors.

The marriage, too, was short-lived (less than a year, it seems). But Shi’s erstwhile father-in-law is also on the lookout for the missing family. “The person who had caused this has to bear the responsibilities,” he told the Global Times. “The truth will be revealed.”

So what happened? As it turns out, Shi might have had a gambling problem, and it has been reported that he has lost Rmb1.5 billion ($228 million) on the tables in Macau (which might explain why his family hasn’t left a forwarding address – those VIP junket operators can be very persistent people).

There doesn’t look to be much chance of recouping the debt. The family jewellery business filed for bankruptcy last October, with the local court freezing the bank accounts of both the company and family members, as well seizing properties owned by them.

It also seems Shi borrowed an additional Rmb80 million from his now ex-father-in-law (hence his ruminations on the Shi family disappearing act).

Their downfall elicited little sympathy from internet commentators. Shi, and many of his counterparts, are commonly known as fu er dai, which can incorporate both the children of senior Party officials and China’s new millionaire class (oddly enough, often one and the same thing).

WiC has written of similar fu er dai types before, and especially their frequently arrogant take on life’s privileges. Take Li Qiming. Last October, Li, whose father was a senior official in Baoding was driving while drunk in October on a university campus in Hebei when his Volkswagen sedan struck two students. One of the victims subsequently died; the other was seriously injured.

After the accident, Li did not stop but was eventually detained by university guards. Undeterred, he warned them, “My father is Li Gang!” It later became a popular catchphrase used to vent frustration at corruption among Chinese officials and their families (see WiC84). The phrase, “fen fu” or to hate the rich has also become more prominent in recent months to capture the public’s resentment.

Meanwhile, netizens continue to weigh in on the disappearance of the ‘Wuxi Diamond Family’.

“As the old saying goes, wealth does not pass three generations. But with a prodigal son it takes only one generation,” a netizen wrote on QQ.com. Another says: “Shi probably got into his head that he’s some government official so money is easy! Too bad for his ancestors because they have to watch while he destroys everything they built.”

On a final note, the speculation that Li was able to punt Rmb1.5 billion in Macau will do little to assuage official concerns about the occasionally catastrophic influence of the enclave. Nor will it aid the cause of those in China who have been lobbying to legalise gambling on the mainland itself.


© ChinTell Ltd. All rights reserved.

Exclusively sponsored by HSBC.

The Week in China website and the weekly magazine publications are owned and maintained by ChinTell Limited, Hong Kong. Neither HSBC nor any member of the HSBC group of companies ("HSBC") endorses the contents and/or is involved in selecting, creating or editing the contents of the Week in China website or the Week in China magazine. The views expressed in these publications are solely the views of ChinTell Limited and do not necessarily reflect the views or investment ideas of HSBC. No responsibility will therefore be assumed by HSBC for the contents of these publications or for the errors or omissions therein.