Background on Benjamin Yeung, Hybrid Kinetic mega-plant in Tunica

Automotive News has a fascinating story today on Yang Rong, aka Yung "Benjamin" Yeung, who was behind plans to build a $6.5 billion hybrid-electric car plant in Tunica County, Miss.

Details of the Hybrid Kinetic Automotive venture -- which is projected to occupy 3,500 acres, provide 25,000 jobs and produce a whopping 1 million cars a year -- emerged when a federal judge in Mississippi revealed details of a convoluted lawsuit involving Yang and associates including Xiaolin "Charles" Wang. The lawsuit stemmed from a disagreement between Wang and Yeung over whether Wang was Yeung's employee or an equal partner. Furthermore, Wang and others appeared to be going their own way under a very similar name. Under a settlement, Wang and Yeung would compete in separate ventures, each of which would dwarf Toyota's mothballed Prius plant in Mississippi.  One industry analyst called the plan "outrageous" and suggested that investors "vet that business plan carefully."

Of course, as the Automotive News article points out, most of the investors were Chinese nationals who were investing with the promise of obtaining U.S. residency.

A commercial investment of $1 million, or $500,000 if made in an economically distressed area such as northern Mississippi, qualifies a foreign family for a permanent-resident green card. "A lot of people in China want to move some of their money out of China," [Yang's spokesman Vincent] Wang said.

Yeung himself had to flee China without most of his assets after running afoul of the Chinese state:

In the early 1990s, Yang was one of the first entrepreneurs to strike it rich in China's auto industry. He was hailed in China as part of a new generation of savvy businessmen and credited with catapulting Brilliance from making dreary buses into BMW's partner in making BMW 3- and 5-series cars.

In 2001, Forbes magazine said Yang was the third-richest entrepreneur in China. He listed Brilliance's stock on the New York Stock Exchange, a first for a Chinese enterprise.

But in 2002, after feuding with a Chinese provincial governor over the location of a new factory, Yang found himself charged with unspecified economic crimes. He fled the country under a false passport for Los Angeles, where he joined his wife and four children. Most of his own personal wealth had to be abandoned in China.


The story keeps getting weirder. The provincial governor claimed that Yeung was actually a government agent, and a court in Bermuda -- where Yeung's Brilliance company was incorporated -- ruled that he never actually owned any of the company.

So will these two competing hybrid-electric car mega-plants be an economic boon for Mississippi, or a boondoggle of visa fraud for wealthy Chinese?

UPDATE: Here's a story from The Miami Herald with more information on EB-5 or investor visas.


18 Comments

Mr. Richens

What's your take on "Benjamin" Yeung now courting Alabama officials regarding plans to build a $1.5 billion automotive plan on a 3000 acre spot north of Bay Minette, AL at which he intends to employ 5000 people and make one million cars per year?

Tim Stark

Kinect looks pretty cool but I think PS3's Eye has better tech

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  • About Links to Memphis

Deputy Online News Editor Mark Richens takes you through all the news about Memphis from sources outside the Mid-South.