Chinese firm tied to Communist Party critic stands trial

Beijing (AFP) - Three executives of a Chinese investment firm linked to outspoken Communist Party critic Guo Wengui confessed to fraud on Friday, as the billionaire property tycoon lobs corruption allegations at high-level officials from abroad.

Appearing in Dalian Xigang People's Court in northeastern Liaoning province, the defendants -- Lu Tao, Xie Honglin and Yang Ying -- admitted to fraud involving 3.2 billion yuan ($470 million) in loans from the Agricultural Bank of China.

Xie and Lu also confessed to fraudulently obtaining foreign currency.

All three held management positions at Beijing Pangu Investment and said in court that Guo was Pangu's "actual controlling shareholder," testifying that they did not have any decision-making power.

Under Guo's direction, Lu told the court, he "privately engraved an official seal" for use on their loan applications.

"I knew (this was illegal)," Lu said, according to video published on the court's social media account.

"It was Guo Wengui who instructed me to do it, under the circumstances at the time I had no choice."

Guo, who left China two years ago and is currently in New York, denied the statement in a message to AFP on Friday.

"Of course this isn't true," he said. "It's very very complicated. It's hard to explain in a few words."

Guo has said in videos and statements posted to his active Twitter account (under the alias Miles Kwok) that he plans to release incriminating information about powerful Chinese officials at a livestreamed press conference this coming fall.

His moves threaten to undermine President Xi Jinping's efforts to consolidate power ahead of a key party congress later this year.

Among the targets of his allegations is Wang Qishan, the head of the government's internal corruption watchdog, a position whose power is widely considered second only to that of Xi.

The real estate magnate is the subject of an Interpol "red notice" for his arrest.

That was released in April at around the same time as a video ostensibly from the Chinese government showing jailed former state security vice minister Ma Jian confessing that Guo paid him 60 million yuan ($8.8 million) in bribes.

Guo appeared in a televised Voice of America interview this April which was cut short just as he started discussing anti-graft chief Wang.