Chinese businessman Qu Naijie is facing trial on charges of money laundering and tax fraud related to his acquisition of 25 châteaux in France's Bordeaux region, worth €60 million. Qu, aged 63, is accused of embezzling €32 million in Chinese state subsidies meant for his Haichang Group's investment in digital technology but allegedly diverted to purchase vineyards. Qu vehemently denies any wrongdoing in this case.
Qu gained notoriety when he entered Bordeaux's exclusive winemaking circles between 2010 and 2013, acquiring numerous vineyards. He even received an invitation to join the Commanderie du Bontemps, a prestigious society that describes itself as a "brotherhood" comprising key figures in the Bordeaux wine trade.
In 2018, French authorities seized 10 of Qu's châteaux as the Serious Financial Crimes Office began investigating his vineyard acquisitions. Additionally, Exco Ecaf, an accounting firm formerly headed by Pierre Goguet, chairman of the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce, faces charges as an accessory in the case. The firm certified the accounts related to Qu's transactions and is charged with failing to disclose a crime. Goguet, while acknowledging his role at the firm, asserted that he was not personally involved in the matter and does not anticipate being summoned for the trial scheduled in Paris for February.
Qu also stands accused of using counterfeit bills of sale for vineyards to secure an additional €30 million loan from the Luxembourg subsidiary of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. While he did ultimately purchase the vineyards and repay the loan, it is alleged that he utilized the documents before the sales were finalized to persuade the bank to release the funds.
To obfuscate the source of his funds, prosecutors contend that shell companies were established in France to manage the transactions. They assert that the money followed a complex trail through offshore entities, including one registered in the British Virgin Islands, before being funneled into France.
In his defence, Qu's lawyer, Maxime Delhomme, argued, "Where's the harm? No one was hurt. The châteaux owners were paid and paid generously, the bank loan was repaid, and the tax authorities haven't filed a complaint." The trial will shed further light on this high-profile case, which has drawn attention to the intersection of international business dealings, financial compliance, and the Bordeaux wine industry. By fLEXI tEAM