China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. was sued for $5.17 billion by a Hong Kong businessman who said company executives were involved in a plot that had him imprisoned for five years on trumped-up charges.
Tiangang Sun, the former chairman of GeoMaxima Energy Holdings Ltd., accused Sinopec, as China Petroleum is more commonly known, of violations of the Alien Tort Claims Act, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution, among other allegations, in a complaint filed yesterday in federal court in Los Angeles.
Sun said in the complaint that officials of Sinopec and the Chinese government had him arrested in 2005 after he sued the oil company in Beijing for breaching a contract with his company related to a pipeline to the Tahe oilfield in Xinjiang.
Sinopec, based in Beijing, first took over his previous partner in the pipeline venture, terminated its collaboration in the project, and then built a competing pipeline, Sun said. Evidence that Sinopec publicly overstated production of the Tahe oilfield was presented in a lawsuit filed in Hong Kong, Sun said.
The Hong Kong lawsuit was dismissed in 2004 because the judge said it should have been brought in Beijing, according to Sun’s complaint.
Sun said he was arrested in August 2005 and not brought before a judge until about three years later. While he was imprisoned, his assets were seized and his wife and daughter had to hide in the countryside, according to the complaint. He wasn’t found guilty on bribery and embezzlement charges and was released from detention in 2010, Sun said.
After an additional two years of house arrest, he was allowed to leave for the U.S. in 2012, Sun said. He has continued to receive threats, including to his wife and daughter who are still in China, warning him not to pursue legal steps against Sinopec while living in the U.S., according to the complaint.
Representatives of Sinopec with the Brunswick Group in Hong Kong didn’t immediately respond to a telephone call and an e-mailed message seeking comment on the allegations.
The case is Tiangang Sun v. China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., 13-05355, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).