mysterious, months-long disappearance of China’s most famous actress looks to finally be coming to an end with Chinese authorities announcing that Fan Bingbing can avoid jail time if she just pays 883 million yuan ($129 million) in back taxes and fees.he
Fan has not been seen in public since July 1st and had last posted on her personal Weibo account on June 2nd, one day before the State Administration of Taxation announced that it was opening up an investigation into her tax filings.
The investigation was launched after a CCTV host accused the 37-year-old actress of having signed so-called “yin-yang contracts,” wherein she would receive two separate contracts for the same film project, one of which would be reported to authorities, the other would not, thus helping her sidestep millions in taxes.
While the host later retracted the accusation and Fan denied any wrongdoing, her subsequent silence resonated far louder, igniting rampant speculation aboutwhat had become of one of China’s most recognizable people. Over the past few months, rumors circulated that Fan had been arrested, that she had been banned from leaving China, that she had been banned from acting for three years, that her production company’s offices had been emptied, and even that she had sought asylum in the United States.
Earlier today, Chinese authorities put an end to much of that speculation, announcing that Fan had indeed taken advantage of “yin-yang contracts” and had been found guilty of tax fraud. According to China’s official Xinhua news agency, Fan and her production company owe around 288 million yuan in back taxes. As long as she pays back that amount, plus nearly 600 million yuan in fines, she will avoid criminal prosecution.
Hours after the news was made public, Fan broke her four-month-long silence on Weibo, posting an apology for her more than 63 million followers to see in which she declared that she completely accepts the results of the investigation against her and will do her best to pay back the sum, adding that she is deeply ashamed of what she had done.
“I owe my success to the support of my country and people. Without the Party and the state’s great policies, without the love of the people, there would be no Fan Bingbing,” she wrote. “Today, I am racked with fear and worry over the mistakes I made! I have failed the support of my country, the trust of society, and the love of my devoted fans! I once again offer my sincere apologies! I beg for everyone’s forgiveness!”
Last month, Beijing Normal University released a study which attempted to assign a “social responsibility rating” for each Chinese film and television star. Fan scored a zero out of 100.
Citing sources with knowledge of her case, the South China Morning Post has reported that Fan was released from “secret detention” about two weeks ago as the investigation into her finances wrapped up. According to SCMP, during her disappearance, Fan was residing at a “holiday resort” in Jiangsu province that is used to house officials under investigation. She has since been relocated to Beijing.
Fan Bingbing has been China’s highest-paid celebrity for the past four years, according to Forbes, taking in (a reported) 300 million yuan ($46.8 million) last year. The 36-year-old actress’ first breakout film role came inCell Phoneback in 2003. She has since gone on to act in Hollywood blockbusters likeX-Men: Days of Future Past.
Of course, it seems unlikely that Fan was the only star in China using “yin-yang contracts.” Chinese authorities have given other actors a grace period until the end of the year to “correct” their own tax filings before they will face penalties and punishment for their malfeasance.