A Chinese metals tycoon has been indicted in the U.S. over allegations that he avoided paying $1.8 billion in tariffs on aluminum imports, Agence France-Presse reported Thursday.
Liu Zhongtian is accused of disguising aluminum as other products to smuggle the material into the U.S. from 2008 onwards.
His company, China Zhongwang Holdings, as well as several other individuals and shell companies were named in the indictment, which was filed at the federal courthouse in Los Angeles.
“This indictment outlines the unscrupulous and anti-competitive practices of a corrupt businessman who defrauded the United States out of US$1.8 billion in tariffs due on Chinese imports,” prosecutor Nick Hanna said, according to AFP.
The smuggling scheme allegedly involved welding aluminum imports together to resemble pallets, which are not subject to tariffs. Once the metal was in the U.S., it was melted and resold in other forms, AFP reports.
Liu and his conspirators have been charged with nine counts of wire fraud, seven counts of passing false and fraudulent papers through customs and conspiracy. AFP reports that Liu could not be reached for comment.
According to the Wall Street Journal, an arrest warrant has been drawn up for Liu, who is believed to be in China. The U.S. does not have extradition treaty China.
The indictment comes amid a bruising trade war between Washington and Beijing. President Donald Trump has raised tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports. Beijing has responded by taxing $110 billion of U.S. products.
Although talks to end the trade war resumed this week, substantial progress has not yet been made.