China executed prominent business tycoon Liu Han on Monday, for leading a “mafia-style” gang of loan sharks, gun runners and contract killers, according to detailed coverage by state-owned media.

The news “sent tremors through Sichuan’s political and business circles,” Xinhua news agency reported, not least because Liu seemed to be included in those circles. That raises a few questions about this mercurial establishment figure, such as:

Was he really an establishment figure?

Measured in wealth, certainly. As chairman of the Hanlong Group, a conglomerate of real estate, mining and energy businesses headquartered in Sichuan province, Liu, 49, had amassed assets totaling $6.4 billion at the time of his arrest, according to Xinhua news agency.

Forbes ranked him the 148th richest business person in China in 2012, and his dealings stretched from Sichuan province in western China to far-flung mining ventures in the U.S. and Australia.

Neither was he shy about…

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