A passport-purchasing ‘Maltese’ billionaire has been charged in the US over claims that he has avoided paying a massive $1.8 billion in aluminium tariffs.
Chinese billionaire, Liu Zhongtian, allegedly imported aluminium extrusions — bars or tubes — disguised as “pallets” via ports in Southern California.
The imports “were simply aluminium extrusions that were spot-welded together to make them appear to be functional pallets, which would be finished goods not subject to the duties,” prosecutors said in a statement.
Zhongtian became a Maltese citizen through the country’s controversial cash-for-passports scheme.
Like many other of the ultra wealthy people becoming Maltese through purchase, Zhongtian lives in a modest small first floor flat in Naxxar, at least according to registration.
Zhongtian, a former member of the National People’s Congress, leads an operation which sees China Zhongwang Holdings sell aluminium pallets to his own company.
As many as 2.2 million “pallets” were imported to the United States between 2011 and 2014 before being stockpiled at warehouses allegedly purchased at Liu’s direction.
Authorities say there were no real purchasers for the product, but rather was used to funnel hunter of millions of dollars back to China Zhongwang and other shell companies.
While the company claimed the pallets had been sold, authorities said there were no real buyers. Instead, the defendants allegedly used a money laundering scheme to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars back to China Zhongwang and other shell companies as payment.
China Zhongwang has said it “has always strictly abided by … the laws and regulations of the People’s Republic of China and destination countries of its exported products.”