Regardless of his three year stint in a Chinese jail, Australian entrepreneur Charlotte Chou will wait longer to learn her fate after a Guangzhou court failed to deliver a verdict today.
Prosecutors scoured through fresh evidence, relating to two bank accounts, which they say showed Ms. Chou was guilty of stealing money from a university she helped found.
In an intense exchange, lawyers working for Ms. Chou slammed the prosecution for delaying the evidence they were supposed to produce when they could have obtained it earlier.
Lead lawyer Chen Youxi fired away saying, “Investigators could have spent two months to get this information.”
“It has taken nearly four years, more than three years. Now we have had five appearances in court. I don’t know how we can continue in this fashion. I urge the court to state its verdict.”
Sporting a blue tracksuit and a prison-issue yellow vest, Ms. Chou appeared calm and smiled at her family, former colleagues and Australian consular officials in the small courtroom. Her wrists were handcuffed and her legs tethered rope.
Ms. Chou stated the “facts were clear” in her case and that she should be proven innocent for this work-related event. She also stated the charges against her were an “insult” against what she stands for as a person.
Judge He Chunzhu said the case would be adjourned with a verdict to be read at an unspecified time. After spending an hour in court. After acknowledging her relatives, Ms. Chou was led firmly out of the courtroom. One of the relatives was Fiona Zou, her sister who flew in from Sydney.
Ms. Chou’s situation has been mired in controversy involving business partners and cloudy allegations of bribery. Ms. Chou’s supporters, including her family and past lover and business partner Lin Yongping – now on the run from Chinese authorities – say Zhu Hanbang, a minority shareholder had paid Guangzhou authorities to keep Ms. Chou in jail, in order to gain control of the profitable university she started.
In June 2008, Ms. Chou was first arrested by Guangzhou police while her one-year-old son, Lincoln, was asleep. Chou has not been able to see her son, who now lives with her mother.
She served 18 months in jail on bribery charges, before being released and immediately re-arrested at the gate of the prison on new charges of embezzling million of yuan from the South China Institute of Software Engineering. Chou has held to her claims that the money was merely repayments of a properly documented loan.
This case resembles a separate case involving Matthew Ng, a different successful Australian businessman who had to face the Guangdong judicial system. Mr. Ng was sentenced to 13 years in jail for corporate charges and bribery involving Et-China, his travel business. His lawyers have maintained that the criminal case was orchestrated by a third party in an attempt to get the Guangzhou business for a low price after Ng denied a buyout offer from his partner, a company owned by the municipal government in Guangzhou.
Mr. Ng is waiting to be heard before the Guangdong Supreme Court to appeal.