Doubts are rising over missing tycoon Xiao Jianhua's grip on his vast business empire, with one source close to Xiao's family saying the billionaire's contact with the outside world has been severed "in the last couple of days".
The source said that in the days immediately after his return to the mainland from Hong Kong on January 27, Xiao had been allowed limited external contact, including phone calls to his wife.
"That's not the case any more," the source said last night.
But another source close to the investigation insisted that Xiao was still in contact with his wife and his business associates.
Xiao has not been seen since he disappeared on the eve of Lunar New Year.
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The saga took another turn yesterday with The New York Times reporting that Yao Long, one of Xiao's employees, was taken from Hong Kong International Airport on Sunday night as he tried to board a flight for Tokyo.
Hong Kong's Immigration Department was investigating whether Yao's travel document was valid, the report said.
The department said it would not comment on individual cases. But an officer at the department's detention centre at Ma Tau Kok said a man named Yao Long had been held there since Sunday night and was taken away by officers from the department's investigation branch yesterday morning . Under Hong Kong law, the authorities can hold Yao without charge for up to 48 hours.
Xiao, has built up a sprawling business empire of financial vehicles and listed companies that could send major shocks through to the market if their shares collapsed.
Sources have told the South China Morning Post that Beijing is eager to avoid any market fallout from the Xiao case.
Shares linked to Xiao and his Beijing-based Tomorrow Group have stabilised since an initial sell-off.
Shares of Baotou Tomorrow Technology gained 0.23 per cent yesterday, Baotou Huazi Industry fell 1.75 per cent, while Xishui Strong Year gained 0.44 per cent.