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The ‘Carl Icahn of China’ Is Going to Jail

Top China investor, foreigners snared in Beijing's crackdownTop China investor, foreigners snared in Beijing's crackdown
View of a logo of Zexin Investment in the empty Shanghai office of Zexi Investment in Shanghai, China, 2 November 2015. Photograph by Stringer/Imaginechina—AP

A Chinese billionaire often called “China’s Carl Icahn” will go to prison for his role in crashing his country’s stock market.

Xu Xiang, a renowned hedge fund manager who ran Shanghai Zexi Investment, was sentenced to five and a half years in jail, a Chinese court announced Monday on its Weibo blog page.

The hedge fund manager was arrested in November 2015 after making a killing during that summer’s Chinese stock market crash, which erased $5 trillion in market value. Authorities accused him of illegally manipulating stocks, as well as insider trading, in order to take advantage of a time when most other Chinese investors were losing money. The insider trading started well before the Chinese stock market crisis. Xu pleaded guilty to the charges in December, according to the Qingdao Intermediate People’s Court.

It’s unclear exactly how much money Xu made on his schemes, but one of his funds was up 357% from the beginning of 2015 through the first five days of August, more than any other Chinese fund, Fortune’s Scott Cendrowski reported at the time, even after the Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite shed nearly 30% over the previous month.

The court did not specify the actual sum of Xu and his co-conspirators’ illicit gains, but said it was “especially huge,” according to Bloomberg’s translation of the Chinese-language statement.

Besides the prison time, Xu will also have to pay the equivalent of more than $1.6 billion (11 billion yuan), the biggest fine an individual has ever had to pay for a white-collar crime in Chinese history, Caixin reported. Still, the penalties on Xu could have been far worse, as he faced as much as 10 years in prison. Other financial criminals in China have been sentenced to death.

The court said Xu traded on inside information from 13 public companies over a period of six years, receiving lucrative tips about events such as dividend announcements, Bloomberg reported.

The crackdown on Xu comes as China is struggling to convince international market makers that it can effectively regulate its own stock market in accordance with global standards. Last June, MSCI, which provides benchmark stock indexes, again rejected Shanghai stocks from inclusion in its flagship emerging markets index, in part due to concerns over how China dealt with the 2015 crash.