OUT OF TOUCH

Fanya’s founder has “disappeared,” eight months after he froze $6 billion in investor cash

Obsession
China's Transition
Obsession
China's Transition

The head of Fanya Metal Exchange has gone missing, eight months after the trading platform froze an estimated $6 billion it received from hundreds of thousands of Chinese investors.

Fanya chairman and founder Shan Jiuliang has been out of contact since a Oct. 15 board meeting at Imagi International Holdings Ltd, a Hong Kong-listed company Shan also chairs, Imagi announced today (Dec. 17).

The most recent board meeting was postponed to Dec. 11 at Shan’s wife Zhang Peng’s request, Imagi said in the announcement, but neither of them showed up. Zhang, an executive director at Imagi, also holds several high-level executive positions at Fanya. Shan and Zhang own nearly 50% of Imagi’s shares, according to the company’s interim report in 2015 (pdf, page 9). Imagi said it has not received any information from Shan or government authorities about his whereabouts.

The disappearance of a business executive in China usually means he is under investigation or has been asked to assist in one—take this list of this year’s “disappeared” top bankers, for example. Fanya executives may be investigated for suspected illegal fundraising, well-respected financial media house Caixin reported, citing unidentified sources.

A well-connected veteran commodities trader, Shan, 51, founded Fanya in 2011 as a securities and futures exchange for rare metals. With the backing of the local Yunnan provincial government and widespread promotion from state television and prominent Chinese economists, Fanya was portrayed as a risk-free investment that would give China influence in the global metals market. Its flagship product, “Ri Jin Bao,” promised an annual return as high as 13%, and attracted 220,000 Chinese investors. Some invested their life savings before Fanya said in April it was having liquidity problems and froze their cash.

Investors have held nationwide public protests and filed complaints with local and central governments. The government has mostly ignored their plight and even arrested and harassed investors themselves. Earlier in August, Shan was kidnapped in Shanghai by hundreds of investors and turned over to police, but eventually released. Last week, a high-profile economist who had promoted Fanya was physically assaulted by angry investors during his talk in North China’s Shanxi province, and later apologized for his endorsement.

Quartz is unable to reach anyone at Fanya, and the company website has been taken down. Shan’s mobile was turned off when Caixin tried to contact him.

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