Tortured for the Connected, Chinese Man Says

     (CN) – A man who claims to be one of China’s first self-made billionaires demands $5 billion in damages from politically connected China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., which he says conspired to have him imprisoned and tortured while it stole his businesses.
     Tiangang Sun, of Hong Kong, claims China Petroleum ran a years-long conspiracy to conduct “racketeering activity and a criminal enterprise.” He sued the company in Los Angeles Federal Court.
     “Defendants, including one of the world’s largest oil and natural gas companies Sinopec, PRC, government officials, and others acting on their behalf illegally detained and tortured Mr. Sun; illegally seized and converted Mr. Sun’s assets; systematically engaged in an array of illegal conduct to obstruct justice and use the criminal justice system of the PRC to eliminate risks posed by Mr. Sun’s civil lawsuit against Sinopec; made false and misleading public statements to investors to conceal the true nature of their enterprise and their business methods,” the lawsuit states.
     Sun, a serial entrepreneur, claims one of his successful companies, GeoMaxima Energy Holdings Company, undertook several projects to develop energy and natural gas throughout China, including the Tahe Oil Field in the Takelamagan desert in Xinjiang Province.
     To reduce transportation costs, he formed a joint venture with National Star, holder of mineral rights to the field, and built a 69.4 kilometer oil pipeline.
     All the while, Sun says, Sinopec was “waiting in the wings to take advantage of his efforts.”
     Shortly after his pipeline went into operation, he says, Sinopec exploited its connections with the Communist Party to take over National Star, and built its own pipeline, cutting him out of the profits. In 2004, Sun sued Sinopec in Hong Kong.
     “Sinopec officials were worried that the Hong Kong lawsuit threatened to expose the elaborate accounting methods the company had devised and implemented to systematically overstate the value of its operations in the Tahe Oil Field, including dramatically overstating the oil field’s production,” according to the complaint.
     His lawsuit was dismissed without prejudice when the Hong Kong court found Beijing was the proper venue. Sun refiled in Beijing.
     When he refused to drop or settle the lawsuit, Sinopec officials used their “strong inside, corrupt connections with PRC government and Communist Party officials … to coordinate and cause criminal charges to be brought against Mr. Sun and thereby end Mr. Sun’s efforts to pursue legal redress against Sinopec and eliminate the associated risks the lawsuit posed to Sinopec,” the complaint states.
     Sun says the allegations against him, multiple claims of business misconduct, were patently false.
     He claims he was arrested by plainclothes government security officials and imprisoned for five years, with no contact with his family, little knowledge of his whereabouts or why he was being held, and he lost control of his businesses.
     Meanwhile, the conspirators took over Geomax and engineered the dropping of Sun’s lawsuit.
     “While his business empire was in chaos, Mr. Sun was isolated in a remote detention facility, where he endured an initial nonstop, 30-hour interrogation session by dozens of investigators from Team 816. During this interrogation, Mr. Sun was not provided any food or water, was not allowed to sleep, and was forbidden from using the lavatory. Numerous Sinopec employees, who were enterprise members, attended and participated in his interrogation,” he says in the lawsuit.
     “For the next five years, Mr. Sun was forced to endure an array of hostile conditions and inhumane treatment. For example, he was provided substandard meals and clothing. He was housed in a cell that was nearly lightless and overcrowded with other detainees. Mr. Sun was not provided a mattress or bedding, but was forced to sleep on a concrete floor.”
     Tried twice, Sun says he was found not guilty both times, and finally was released from prison, only to be placed instead under house arrest in November 2010. He remained under house arrest until March 6, 2012.
     He seeks $5.1 billion in compensatory, and punitive and treble damages for violations of the Alien Tort Claims Act, torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, RICO violations, emotional distress, assault, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution.
     He is represented by Michael Zweiback with Arent Fox in Los Angeles.

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