A Chinese billionaire's love of cat meat may have cost him his life.
Chinese police are investigating whether local billionaire tycoon Long Liyuan was killed by a poison-spiked batch of cat stew in the southern province of Guangdong.
The 49-year-old Long died suddenly on Dec. 23 of cardiac arrest after diving into a dish of cat meat stew, a local delicacy. Long was having a business lunch with two other men at the time who also became ill but survived.
The tycoon apparently had a soft spot for domestic cat meat and often went to the same restaurant to enjoy the dish. He reportedly ate more of the cat than the other two men and then felt sick and dizzy afterwards before he died in the hospital.
Long's family believed this was no accident.
A relative told the local newspaper Xin Kuai Bao, "He went several times to eat cat meat in the past. On each occasion, the cat was freshly killed before being put in the pot. He never had any food poisoning problems before. It must have been murder."
One of the men who survived told the local media that they had eaten at the restaurant before and this time the cat meat tasted different, it was "more bitter" than usual.
Police later found that the suspicious stew had an extra ingredient this time - the toxic herb Gelsemium elegans, a poisonous plant found in the area.
The authorities are now pointing their fingers at one of the men who shared the feline feast with Long, a local official name Huang Guang, who happens to be the deputy director of agriculture for the local township.
In addition to knowledge of local vegetation, including the poisonous ones, it turns out that Huang had a history of economic disputes with the dead tycoon.
The Nanfang Daily reports that the Long, who made his fortune from a forestry company, had sought Huang's help over the years to secure land for development. In return Long had apparently lent Huang a large of amount of money over the years to help fund Huang's business projects.
Long's family members told the local newspaper that Huang had squandered all the money and they believed he wanted to poison Long so he wouldn't need to pay him back.
A friend of Long also told the Nanfang Daily that Long had confronted Huang 10 days before the ill-fated lunch that he wanted to expose some of Huang's business partners to the local Communist Party Disciplinary Committee.
On the day of the lunch, the three men were in the area surveying a piece of land before dining at the restaurant. Huang Wen - the other survivor - told the Nanfang Daily that at one point Huang Guang had gotten up from the table to check if the stew was ready and disappeared for 10 minutes.
As for the cat meat, the people of Guangdong province are known for their adventurous palate, eating a wide array of exotic creatures from snakes and insects to civet cats…just not Gelsemium elegans.