Chinese film star Wang Baoqiang’s former agent Song Zhe – the “other man” in Wang’s messy divorce from actress Ma Rong – has been jailed for six years for embezzling 2.35 million yuan (US$338,733) from Wang’s entertainment studio.
Song, who was also the studio manager, was sentenced by the Beijing Chaoyang People’s Court on Thursday morning, according to a court announcement published on China’s Twitter-like Weibo microblogging service. Song’s accomplice, Xiu Yule, received a three-year jail sentence.
The verdict marks the latest scandal to strike China’s film industry. Two weeks ago, megastar actress Fan Bingbing was ordered to pay fines of up to 884 million yuan (US$129 million) for tax evasion.
Song’s notorious affair with Ma led to the high-profile split of Wang and Ma in 2016. When Wang revealed the affair on Weibo, his move plunged the couple into an epic public row that was watched by millions on social media.
The court found Song had abused his position by making false records of the studio’s earnings between 2014 and 2016. His actions enabled him to embezzle 2.35 million yuan from the company’s finances, 1.68 million yuan of which was hoarded by Xiu, according to the court announcement.
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There is no suggestion that Wang was involved in any wrongdoing.
The court said Song had received a lighter sentence in exchange for pleading guilty and promising to repay the money he took from the studio.
Song and Xiu were arrested in September 2017 by Beijing police on suspicion of “encroachment of duty”, the Chinese legal term for corruption in the private sector.
The arrest was widely celebrated on Chinese social media at the time, with Wang’s fans jubilantly declaring that justice had been served with the apprehension of the marriage-wrecking manager.
In court, Song said that he had not decided whether to appeal, while Xiu said he would appeal, the Dabai News reported on Thursday.
Weibo users welcomed the verdict.
“The punishment was well deserved, it all made me laugh,” read one top-rated comment on the social network.
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Wang Baoqiang has not commented officially on the verdict. But his divorce lawyer, Zhang Qihuai, posted a Weibo photo on Thursday of Wang and Song smiling and shaking hands.
Many internet users sided with Wang during his divorce. The millionaire actor is viewed as a national treasure in China since he worked his way up to stardom from humble roots.
Chinese authorities have pledged to crack down on tax evasion in the film and entertainment industries in recent months, introducing caps on actors’ salaries and tightening the scrutiny of firms’ financial records.
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