Cher Wang, the co-founder, chairperson and CEO of Taiwanese smartphone manufacturer HTC has been swindled out of a few million dollars by members of her church, it has emerged.
The culprit, as it turned out, was a longtime friend and business associate of her husband Chen Wen-chi, CEO of the integrated chipset maker VIA Technologies.
So trusted was Jonathan Chang, 60, by Chen, that he was appointed chief financial officer at VIA Technologies. Both he and his wife, Grace Chang, 57, were arrested on Monday in Cupertino and are now out of custody on $200,000 bond.
Jonathan Chang was the church elder in charge of managing day-to-day finances at the Home of Christ Christian Church in Saratoga, California, where Cher Wang and her husband were married. It was also here that Chen was baptized years ago.
Together with his wife, Chang set up a bogus foundation, Home of Christ Associates, and hatched an elaborate plan to bilk Wang of donations meant for the church’s new multi-million-dollar building project.
According to the indictment, the couple allegedly bilked Wang and the church out of $7.4 million between 2004 and January 2016.
This includes a $2 million donation and $3 million loan Wang was persuaded to provide the church with in 2004, as well as a later transfer of more than $892,000 for the church building.
To repay short-term loans, the church later agreed to sell the new building to Chang’s bogus foundation. Things came to a head when the 10-year lease expired in June 2015, and the Changs began to charge $10,000 in rent per month and threatened the church with eviction.
If convicted of the various charges of fraud and money laundering, the Changs face a maximum of 20 years in prison and several hundred thousand dollars in fines.
Identified in the indictment and in a report by the San Jose Mercury News only as C.W., Cher Wang’s role in the case was revealed by the World Journal, a Chinese-language national daily in the United States.
The Journal also revealed that Wang and her husband have been major donors of the church since 1996, giving over a million dollars towards special accounts such as the Seminary Fund, the Mainland China Mission Fund, and the Church Building Development Fund.
Long the power couple in Taiwan’s technology circles, Cher Wang and Chen Wen-chi topped the island’s rich list in 2011, but have seen their fortunes dwindle as HTC shares shed more than 90% of their value since then. They placed 37th in Forbes’ Taiwan’s 50 Richest list in 2015. Cher Wang was also listed as the world’s 54th most powerful woman by Forbes in 2014.
Wang’s popularity in Taiwan has also taken a hit since she began injecting herself into politics. In 2012, she endorsed President Ma Ying-jeou when he was seeking re-election, and voiced open support for the “1992 Consensus”, a verbal agreement by powers on both sides of the straits that there is only one “China”, and that each side would be free to define “China” their own way.
In 2013, it also emerged that HTC was working with the Chinese government to develop a mobile operating system that was hoped would break the dominance of Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android systems.
Critics also charge that Wang has been bankrolling the Bread of Life Church, a leading Taiwanese megachurch with billions of New Taiwan Dollars as it embarked on high profile campaigns to oppose same-sex marriage on the island.