Vanished Chinese actress Fan Bingbing broke her silence with a groveling apology to the Chinese government, which she owes $129 million
- Chinese actress Fan Bingbing broke her silence after disappearing for three months after being accused of tax evasion.
- She issued a groveling apology on social media on Wednesday admitting to signing secret contracts to avoid taxes.
- She said: "Without the Party and country's good policies, without the love of the people, there would be no Fan Bingbing."
- Chinese tax authorities say Fan evaded taxes by splitting her earnings into two contracts, and fined her $129 million.
Fan Bingbing, the Chinese actress who has been missing for three months, has broken her silence with a groveling apology to the Chinese government, which has reportedly fined her $129 million in overdue taxes and fines.
Fan disappeared from the public eye in early July shortly after she was accused of tax evasion. Cui Yongyuan, a TV host with Chinese state media, suggested as long ago as May that she signed secret contracts for an upcoming movie to avoid paying higher taxes.Tax authorities in Jiangsu province on Sunday found that Fan earned 30 million yuan ($4.4 million/£3.4 million) for a film, but split her earnings into two contracts - one public one for 10 million, and a secret one for 20 million - to avoid paying higher taxes, the state-run Xinhua News agency reported on Wednesday.
In a statement posted on Chinese social network Weibo the same day, Fan admitted wrongdoing, said she was "deeply ashamed" of avoiding tax, and praised the Chinese authorities.
As well as the contentious split contracts, Xinhua said that Fan and companies she represented also evaded 248 million yuan ($34 million/£28 million) in taxes, but gave no further details regarding the companies or this figure.
The actress and her companies have been fined a total of 884 million yuan ($129 million/£99 million), the BBC and Reuters reported, citing Xinhua. Of that sum she was personally fined 479 million yuan ($70 million/£54 million), according to the Financial Times. It's not clear who exactly owes the rest of the sum.
Authorities also ordered that Fan repay the money within a prescribed time limit, but did not say how long that would be, Xinhua said. If Fan doesn't pay it back in time, tax authorities will transfer her case to public security officials for "handling," the agency reported, without specifying what that would entail.
Shortly after the Xinhua story was published, Fan broke her silence on microblogging site Weibo with a confirmation with the financial accusations against her as well as an apology to "society, my friends, the public, and the country's tax authority."
The actress said: "For a while, due to my not understanding the relationship between benefits of the country, society, and individual, I and others took advantage of a 'split contract' to avoid tax problems, and I am deeply ashamed."
She also said that she "totally accepts" the tax authorities' penalty, adding: "Without the Party and country's good policies, without the love of the people, there would be no Fan Bingbing."
Fan's case is not unique. China is grappling with tax evasion cases both within and beyond its entertainment industry, and experts say that Fan's temporary disappearance shows Beijing's eagerness to end those infractions.
Zhu Chuanlu, a tax lawyer at Beijing's Zhonglun W&D law firm, told the Financial Times "the punishment would also have a deterrent effect to other sectors. [Wealthy] individuals will continue to be the target of national tax audits, I believe that similar cases will continue to erupt."
Rod Wye, a former official in the British Embassy in Beijing, also told The Sun last month: "For someone like her to be 'publicly disappeared' sends out a message that no matter how high you rise the Party can cut you down again... You can't tell who will be singled out next.
"They want to send out a message to the entertainment industry that they need to be aware of the new morality, which is core socialist values."
Fan, 37, is one of China's most prominent actress. She has starred in movies both in and out of China, including "X-Men: Days of Future Past," and in ad campaigns for brands like De Beers.
But Fan's Wednesday apology may have come too late to save her tarnished reputation. Earlier this year academics at Beijing Normal University ranked Fan the lowest in a "social responsibility assessment" of Chinese film and television stars.
Many companies she advertised for, including De Beers and Australian vitamin brand Swisse, have also suspended her image from their campaigns, according to the Associated Press.