Chinese artist Ai Weiwei's company 'evaded taxes'

Ai Weiwei poses with his installation Sunflower Seeds at the Tate Modern gallery in London in October 2010 Ai Weiwei was arrested trying to board a Hong Kong-bound plane out of Beijing last month

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The Chinese authorities have alleged that a company owned by the detained artist, Ai Weiwei, evaded a "huge amount" of tax, state media report.

Police told the official Xinhua news agency that Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd had "intentionally destroyed accounting documents".

One of China's best known artists and a vocal government critic, Mr Ai was detained at Beijing airport on 3 April.

He only was allowed his first contact with his family on Sunday.

The artist met his wife, Lu Qing, at an unknown location and assured her he was healthy, his sister told the BBC.

Beijing Fake Cultural Development - which handles the business aspects of Mr Ai's art career - "was found to have evaded 'a huge amount' of tax' and also to have 'intentionally destroyed accounting documents'", Xinhua reported, citing unnamed police in the capital.

The agency also said Mr Ai was being held "under residential surveillance", which usually means detainees are confined to their homes.

AI'S TANGLES WITH AUTHORITIES

  • Supported online campaign to compile names of children who died in 2008 Sichuan earthquake - many in schools whose construction was allegedly compromised due to corruption
  • In August 2009, beaten up by police in Sichuan while trying to testify for dissident Tan Zuoren
  • Although a co-designer of Beijing's Bird's Nest Olympics stadium, he later disavowed the project, condemning China's hosting of the Games as "fake and hypocritical"
  • His frequently censored blog was read by 10,000 people a day until it was shut down by the authorities in May 2009
  • Ai Weiwei is a "maverick" who "chooses to have a different attitude from ordinary people toward law", the Global Times said on Wednesday

Mr Ai's sister, Gao Ge, said his family had not been officially notified of the accusations.

But she said they were another unfounded effort by the police to justify his detention.

"He's not the company's legally-designated representative, nor is he the chief executive. So even if the company is accused of these crimes, Ai Weiwei should not be detained," she told the Reuters news agency.

"There's been no notification to us or to Lu Qing," she added. "Again, the authorities are saying one thing to Xinhua to tell the outside world, but they haven't observed any legal procedures to tell us."

The manager of Beijing Fake Cultural Development, Liu Zhen'gang, and the company accountant were detained about the same time as Mr Ai and were still in custody, Ms Gao said.

China's foreign ministry previously said that Mr Ai was under investigation for "economic crimes". It also insisted that his case had "nothing to do with human rights or freedom of expression".

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