It was supposed to be a civilised chat over a casual meal of, ahem, cat meat hot pot.
But police in southern China have detained a man suspected of murdering a billionaire tycoon over a financial dispute by poisoning the cat meat they shared.
Long Liyuan, who made his fortune running a forestry company in wealthy Guangdong province, died last month after sharing a dinner of cat meat hot pot – a local delicacy – with two associates.
Last Monday authorities in Yangjiang city, where the incident occurred, said police had detained one of the two associates, Huang Guang, a local forestry official, on suspicion of poisoning the meal after a business deal went sour.
“Huang, who was helping Long take a lease on a forest, had himself used funds provided by Long. This led to an economic dispute and gave Huang the idea to kill Long with poison,” a statement on the city’s official microblog said.
Long’s brother claimed at the time that the billionaire, a Guangdong provincial people’s congress delegate, had been poisoned, and his family posted a 100,000 yuan (B5 million) reward for information about his death.
All three men fell ill after eating the meat on December 23, but Huang and the third diner recovered, the Southern Metropolis Daily newspaper reported on Tuesday.
The paper said that Huang had snuck into the restaurant kitchen to poison their food.
“He tasted the cat meat, saying it needed to boil longer, then asked the owner of the restaurant to go fetch him three bottled beverages,” said the Guangdong-based daily.
“Her [the owner’s] husband then went out to buy cigarettes, which is when Huang is now suspected to have slipped in some gelsemium elegans,” it added, referring to a poisonous plant native to China.
Before the dinner, the three men had gone to inspect woodlands that Huang wished to sell to Long, the report said, adding that the official had previously helped the tycoon buy woodlands and got other officials to grant permits and public development funds.
Long or his firm appeared to have paid Huang a total of 3.5 million yuan (B17.5 million) for various services and Huang had recently been trying to raise more money to settle debts, it said.
Huang, who earlier told the newspaper of his “great sadness” at Long’s death, had sent a text message to the billionaire giving him his bank details, the paper said.