A Hong Kong court ordered China Evergrande, the world’s most heavily indebted real estate developer, to undergo liquidation following a failed effort to restructure $300 billion owed to banks and bondholders that fueled fears about China’s rising debt burden.
“It would be a situation where the court says enough is enough,” Judge Linda Chan said Monday. She said it was appropriate for the court to order Evergrande to wind up its business given a “lack of progress on the part of the company putting forward a viable restructuring proposal” as well as Evergrande’s insolvency.
China Evergrande Group is among dozens of Chinese developers that have collapsed since 2020 under official pressure to rein in surging debt the ruling Communist Party views as a threat to China’s slowing economic growth. But the crackdown on excess borrowing tipped the property industry into crisis, dragging on the economy and rattling financial systems in and outside China.
Chinese regulators have said the risks of global shockwaves from Evergrande’s failure can be contained. The court documents seen Monday showed Evergrande owes about $25.4 billion to foreign creditors. Its total assets of about $240 billion are dwarfed by its total liabilities.
“It is indisputable that the company is grossly insolvent and is unable to pay its debts,” the documents say.
About 90% of Evergrande’s business is in mainland China. Its chairman, Hui Ka Yan, who is also known as Xu Jiayin, was detained by authorities for suspected “illegal crimes” in late September, further complicating the company’s efforts to recover.
It’s unclear how the liquidation order will affect China’s financial system or Evergrande’s operations as it struggles to deliver housing that has been paid for but not yet handed over to families that put their life savings into such investments.
Evergrande’s Hong Kong-traded shares plunged nearly 21% early Monday before they were suspended from trading. But Hong Kong’s benchmark Hang Seng index was up 0.9% and some property developers saw gains in their share prices.
A court in Thailand on Wednesday acquitted more than two dozen protesters who had occupied Bangkok’s two airports in 2008 of charges of rebellion and terrorism related to their demonstration, which at the time disrupted travel in and out of the country for more than a week.
The Bangkok Criminal Court declared that the members of the People’ Alliance for Democracy had neither caused destruction at the airports nor hurt anyone. However, 13 of the 28 defendants were slapped with a 20,000 baht ($560) fine each for violating an emergency decree that had banned public gatherings.
The protesters — popularly known as Yellow Shirts for the color that shows loyalty to the Thai monarchy — had occupied the airports for about 10 days, demanding the resignation of the government, which was loyal to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. They had earlier also occupied Thaksin’s office compound for three months and blocked access to Parliament.
Thaksin was ousted by a 2006 military coup that followed large Yellow Shirt protests accusing him of corruption and disrespect to the monarchy. In 2008, Yellow Shirts stormed Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airports, shutting down operations and defying an injunction calling for them to leave. The siege ended only after a court ruling forced pro-Thaksin Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat out of office.
Several dozen protesters involved in the demonstrations were divided into two groups of defendants and indicted in 2013. The verdict for the second group is to be delivered in March.
In 2011, the Civil Court ordered the leaders of the group to pay 522 million baht ($14.7 million) in damages to the state airport authority. They were declared bankrupt and had their assets seized last year to pay the sum.
Thaksin came back to Thailand last year to serve an eight-year prison term on several criminal convictions and was right away moved from prison to a state hospital because of reported ill-health. He has remained at the hospital since but his sentence was later reduced to one year, allowing for the possibility he could soon be released on parole.
His return to Thailand came as the Pheu Thai party — the latest incarnation of the party Thaksin led to power in 2001 — won a parliamentary vote to form a new government despite finishing second in elections.
Hunter Biden was indicted on nine tax charges in California as a special counsel investigation into the business dealings of President Joe Biden’s son intensifies against the backdrop of the 2024 election.
The new charges filed Thursday — three felonies and six misdemeanors — are in addition to federal firearms charges in Delaware alleging Hunter Biden broke laws against drug users having guns in 2018. They come after the implosion of a plea deal over the summer that would have spared him jail time, putting the case on track to a possible trial as his father campaigns for reelection.
Hunter Biden “spent millions of dollars on an extravagant lifestyle rather than paying his tax bills,” special counsel David Weiss said in a statement. The charges are centered on at least $1.4 million in taxes Hunter Biden owed during between 2016 and 2019, a period where he has acknowledged struggling with addiction. The back taxes have since been paid.
If convicted, Hunter Biden, 53, could a maximum of 17 years in prison. The special counsel probe remains open, Weiss said.
In a fiery response, defense attorney Abbe Lowell accused Weiss of “bowing to Republican pressure” in the case.
“Based on the facts and the law, if Hunter’s last name was anything other than Biden, the charges in Delaware, and now California, would not have been brought,” Lowell said in a statement.
The White House declined to comment on Thursday’s indictment, referring questions to the Justice Department or Hunter Biden’s personal representatives.
The charging documents filed in California, where he lives, detail spending on drugs, strippers, luxury hotels and exotic cars, “in short, everything but his taxes,” prosecutor Leo Wise wrote.
The indictment comes as congressional Republicans pursue an impeachment inquiry into President Biden, claiming he was engaged in an influence-peddling scheme with his son. The House is expected to vote next week on formally authorizing the inquiry.
No evidence has emerged so far to prove that Joe Biden, in his current or previous office, abused his role or accepted bribes, though questions have arisen about the ethics surrounding the Biden family’s international business.
The separate, long-running criminal investigation into Hunter Biden had been expected to wind down with a plea deal where he would have gotten two years’ probation after pleading guilty to misdemeanor tax charges and avoided prosecution on the gun charge if he stayed out of trouble.
The agreement was pilloried as a “sweetheart deal” by Republicans, including former President Donald Trump. Trump is facing his own criminal cases, including charges that he plotted to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which he lost to Biden, a Democrat.
Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, gave credit for the new charges Thursday to two IRS investigators who testified before Congress that the Justice Department had mishandled and “slow walked” the investigation into the president’s son. Justice officials have denied those allegations.
The two IRS employees, Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler, said the indictment was “a complete vindication of our thorough investigation.”
The new charges against Hunter Biden include filing a false return and tax evasion felonies, as well as misdemeanor failure to file and failure to pay.
The defense signaled that it plans to fight the new charges, likely at least in part relying on immunity provisions from the original plea deal. Defense attorneys have argued those remain in force since that part of the agreement was signed by a prosecutor before the deal was scrapped.
Kentucky’s Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a new state law that allowed participants in constitutional challenges to get the cases switched to randomly selected counties. The court said the legislature’s action on the assignment of court cases encroached on judicial authority.
The law, enacted this year over the governor’s veto, allowed any participants to request changes of venue for civil cases challenging the constitutionality of laws, orders or regulations. It required the clerk of the state Supreme Court to choose another court through a random selection.
Such constitutional cases typically are heard in Franklin County Circuit Court in the capital city of Frankfort. For years, Republican officials have complained about a number of rulings from Franklin circuit judges in high-stakes cases dealing with constitutional issues.
The high court’s ruling was a victory for Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, who in his veto message denounced the measure as an “unconstitutional power grab” by the state’s GOP-dominated legislature. Lawmakers overrode the governor’s veto, sparking the legal fight that reached the state’s highest court.
Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s office defended the venue law, which passed as Senate Bill 126. Cameron is challenging Beshear in the Nov. 7 gubernatorial election — one of the nation’s highest-profile campaigns this year.
Writing for the court’s majority, Chief Justice Laurance B. VanMeter said the new law amounted to a violation of constitutional separation of powers.
The measure granted “unchecked power to a litigant to remove a judge from a case under the guise of a “transfer,” circumventing the established recusal process, the chief justice wrote.
“It operates to vest a certain class of litigants with the unfettered right to forum shop, without having to show any bias on the part of the presiding judge, or just cause for removal,” VanMeter said.