Jia Yueting, the embattled founder of China’s internet conglomerate LeTV, is now on a list of “untrustworthy individuals” banned from train and air travel, checking into five-star hotels or splurging money on luxurious items.
The list is a move to name and shame individuals and businesses that either evaded taxes or failed to pay back maturing loans and debts.
Jia and another 168 names “nominated” by the Chinese State Taxation Authority and China Banking Regulatory Commission are on the first such list that was made public on Friday.
Jia’s LeTV started as a video hosting platform and subsequently had bold crossovers during the years into film and TV drama production as well as a personal electronics business selling iPhone and iPad knockoffs. His company floated on the Shenzhen bourse in 2010. LeTV and its numerous subsidiaries and shell firms are collectively marketed under the name LeEco.
In his heyday, the 45-year-old IT technician-turned-internet mogul was hailed as China’s Steve Jobs, who was best known for his dabbling in new energy car manufacturing with a slew of high-profile investments, through another start-up called Faraday Future, in the US state of Nevada. However, last year he put his US$1 billion North Las Vegas factory on hold, triggering local officials to call the entire affair a classic “Ponzi scheme.”
Jia resigned from all his posts at LeTV in July 2017 and fled to the US, leaving behind a crippling, debt-laden business empire with numerous partners, lenders and creditors fuming over the government’s inaction to hold Jia accountable and to protect their interests.
Chinese courts have since issued several subpoenas and arrest orders, only to be shunned by Jia. Beijing has indicated it would approach Interpol in a bid to get him back. Jia’s sister, Jia Yuefang, is also on the same list.
There have been comments that Beijing’s name-and-shame move and the ban on sumptuous consumption would never affect Jia, as long as he stays at large in the US.