Li Hejun, who was once listed by Forbes as the richest man in China, was detained by police in the northeastern Chinese province of Liaoning on Dec. 17, Chinese media reported on Wednesday.
The billionaire founder of troubled solar energy giant Hanergy Thin Film Power Group was taken away by police in Liaoning’s Jinzhou city, financial magazine Caixin reported on Wednesday, citing former Hanergy employees.
He had yet to be released as of Tuesday, and the reason for his detention was unclear, it said.
Meanwhile, China’s Jiemian News cited an unnamed source as saying that his detention could be linked to the troubled Bank of Jinzhou, which funded its 2015 initial public offering in Hong Kong to the tune of nearly 10 billion yuan (U.S. $1.5 billion).
Li, 55, was ranked that year in the Hurun Report as the wealthiest man in China, with a personal net worth of U.S. $26 billion after shares in Hanergy rose sevenfold in the space of just 12 months.
Li was to lose a huge chunk of that wealth in May 2015, when Hanergy shares plummeted by 47% in just 20 minutes, and later delisted the company after being investigated and banned from operating in Hong Kong by its securities regulator in 2019.
Most of Li’s fortune was forged on the back of massive government infrastructure spending – particularly in hydropower – during the 1990s. He owned dozens of power stations including a mega hydropower project in Yunnan, before moving into solar power.
The Bank of Jinzhou was bailed out by