Four years ago, the Guinness World Record for the longest human-made phrase was set by the employees of Tiens Group in France. To celebrate its 20th anniversary, the CEO of the Chinese multinational company, Li Jinyuan, decided to invite all his 6,400 employees to France for a short trip. It evoked lots of discussions in China with people posting online expressing their envy.
Now four years later, Li Jinyuan has been missing for more than 100 days and the company is facing charges of commercial fraud, murdering, Multi-level Marketing (MLM) that is illegal in China, and more.
Li Jinyuan founded the Tiens Group in 1995 to sell dietary supplements using MLM. Although MLM has been banned since 1998, Tiens Group continued to grow and even expanded its business internationally. In 2005, Regulations on Administration of Direct Sales and Regulations on Prohibition of Chuanxiao (MLM) were passed, making MLM officially illegal in China. Tiens Group responded by obtaining its Direct Sales license in 2011.
Jinyuan has been the richest man in Tianjin for a decade. He’s the 70th richest person in China. The official website of Tiens Group used to publish photos of Li Jinyuan shaking hands with top Chinese leaders like Luo Gan and Jiang Zemin.
About 40km to the northwest of the center of Tianjian lies Huatang, the personal palace of Li Jinyuan. With a lake and island in the middle, several palaces spread around, Jinyuan has received lots of important guests there. The property is estimated to be worth $149.5 million considering the rare wood used to build it.
The company operates in 190 countries and over the years, some of its products have been accused of being fake or misrepresented. In 2014, one company product was flagged for falsely claiming to contain caterpillar fungus.
Despite its Direct Sales nature, Tiens Group has long been criticized for being the biggest MLM company in China. Since 2009, more than 2,781 criminal cases are related to its MLM activities. Earlier this year, another similar company headquartered in the same city, Quanjian Group, was investigated for MLM and business fraud. Eighteen people including its CEO were arrested for further trial. Interestingly, the CEO of Quanjian Group, Shu Yuhui, used to work for Li Jinyuan.
A week ago, the former deputy director of the Office of the Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission, Chen Hua, was sentenced to 9 years in prison for corruption and bribery. One source of the bribery came from Tiens Group with an amount of about $131,000 dollars.
The last time Li Jinyuan was seen in public was December, 2018.