The crazypants details of China’s recent sex tape extortion racket

Lei Zhengfu was snared by a flattering text message.
Lei Zhengfu was snared by a flattering text message.
Image: Reuters
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“Dear leader, I met you before and was very impressed by you. I just graduated from university, changed jobs and stopped working at a modeling company. Now I’m at Hualunda Group. Hope we can have dinner when you are free.”

These words, sent by text to a handful of officials, marked the beginnings of a wide-spread extortion racket in Chongqing, China that earned its creators millions of dollars and brought down some of the southwest city’s most powerful men.

So far, 21 government officials and executives from state-owned enterprises have been sentenced for crimes related to the scandal. While various news outlets covered the story as officials were arrested and more details came to light, business magazine Caixin recently laid out the extortion plot and its aftermath in intricate detail.

The entire article is well worth reading, but here are some Hollywood script-ready highlights:

The kingpin of the extortion racket, Xiao Ye, is a four-times married con artist who drugged young women he took on dates, raped them, then convinced them to become his girlfriend and gave them jobs in his company. He and his head of human resources, Xu Sheqing, recruited more than 10 women this way, most of whom considered themselves Xiao’s girlfriend.

These women sent the text above, or ones like it, to top government officials and executives of state-owned companies, whose numbers Xiao selected from a list of 200 he purchased from a government employee. When the men responded, the women jumped from secretarial duties to sexual blackmail, encouraged by Xiao’s promises to marry them, or threats against their own families. Armed with flashy pocketbooks embedded with spy cameras, they met officials and filmed themselves having sex with them.

Assets at Xiao’s business Yonghuang jumped from 52 million to 1 billion RMB ($8.5 million to $163 million) from 2008 to 2010, thanks to government contracts for infrastructure projects won after the men learned of the tapes.

Before Wang Jijun became known as the police chief at the heart of the Bo Xilai scandal, he had investigated the case and sealed it. But the leak of a sex tape from the extortion ring featuring local party chief Lei Zhengfu in November of last year reopened the case and sparked a flood of online outrage from regular citizens.

Xiao has been sentenced to 10 years in jail, and officials caught up in the web of blackmail and extortion now face charges and political ruin, Caixin notes, as well as widespread humiliation:

Lei became a national laughingstock, not only because the scandal, but also because his sexual efforts were somewhat brief. Web users took to calling him the “12-second brother.”