After months of disappearing from the public eye, Fan Bing Bing has emerged on Weibo today (Wednesday) to apologise for her involvement in a tax evasion scandal.
China has ordered the A-list movie star to pay about 884 million yuan (S$177 million) in overdue taxes and fines, state news agency Xinhua said, as a crackdown on tax evasion in the entertainment industry gathers momentum.
The 37-year-old actress, whose June disappearance touched off wild speculation about her whereabouts, has appeared in the X-Men and Iron Man film franchises, attracting more than 62 million online followers in China.
Xinhua said an investigation by the Chinese tax authorities found that Bing Bing had split her contract to evade taxes of 7.3 million yuan over payments for her role in Air Strike, a film due to be released this year.
Bing Bing and companies she represented also evaded 248 million yuan in additional taxes, Xinhua said, but gave no details regarding this figure.
The tax bureau in the eastern coastal province of Jiangsu delivered its judgment to Bing Bing on Sunday, levying fines of more than 596 million yuan for tax evasion and assessing overdue taxes of more than 288 million yuan, Xinhua said.
As a first-time offender, she will not face criminal prosecution if she pays the fine by an undisclosed deadline.
Breaking her silence, Bing Bing, in a letter posted on Weibo on Wednesday, apologised for her actions. She said she is sorry for having “lost self-discipline in the face of monetary benefit”.
“I have experienced unprecedented pain and agony in recent months,” she wrote. “I have reflected on my actions. I am ashamed of what I have done, and I deeply regret my actions. I apologise sincerely to everyone.”
She added: “For a long time… I adopted the practice of having separate contracts to evade taxes on the film Air Strike and some other projects. I am deeply ashamed.”
She said she accepted the punishment meted out by the authorities and will pay the fine.
According to a South China Morning Post report which quoted an unnamed source close to Bing Bing, the actress had been kept in a “holiday resort” used to investigate officials in a suburb in Jiangsu province. She has since been transferred to the authorities in Beijing, said the source.
Bing Bing dropped off the radar in June amid reports that she was involved in an investigation into tax evasion in the film industry. Her vanishing act sparked wild speculation in China about her fate, including reports that she had been detained.
Chinese TV anchor Cui Yong Yuan was widely reported in May to have posted tax-dodging pay agreements online known as “yin-yang” contracts – one setting out the real agreed payment terms and a second with a lower figure for the tax authorities – that appeared to implicate Bing Bing.
Although Bing Bing denied the accusations and Yong Yuan eventually walked back his claims, China’s State Administration of Taxation announced shortly after that it was looking into the claims of tax evasion involving celebrities.
Since then, Bing Bing vanished from public view – no more social media updates, no more paparazzi photos and no more public appearances.
In September, she came in last out of a hundred stars ranked in a state-sanctioned study on the social responsibility of Chinese, Taiwanese and Hong Kong celebrities.
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