Record $42.85m asset seizure
‘‘The activity underlying the forfeiture orders is alleged money laundering.’’
The High Court has made the country’s single largest forfeiture - $42.85 million worth of assets to settle an alleged money laundering case.
The settlement is against controversial Chinese businessman William Yan, his wife Wei You and two associates. Police said proceedings against the couple and associates Yingzi Zeng and Shui Yong Huang had been settled following discussions between the parties and approval by the High Court. Yan, 45, arrived in New Zealand in 2001 and court documents filed against him in 2012 listed various names and ages ranging from 39 to 42-years-old. He also goes by the names of Bill Liu, Yang Liu and Yong Ming Yan. In 2008 then Associate Immigration Minister Shane Jones granted Yan citizenship against formal advice.
Due to allegations coming out of China, and his tendency to use multiple names and birth dates, Yan was said to have failed a ‘character test’, a requirement of citizenship applications. Citizenship was nonetheless granted by Jones and an official investigation by the auditor-general later found no evidence that Jones had acted improperly. Interpol had placed Yan on a ‘red alert’ list and in 2015 one of his aliases, Yan Sun, appeared on China’s list of 100 fugitives. In 2012 he was acquitted of five immigration fraud offences following a judge-alone trial at the High Court at Auckland. Prosecutors claimed he had used five documents dishonestly to try and gain access to New Zealand.
Police said the forfeiture announced on Tuesday was the single largest in New Zealand and the first relating to crimes alleged to have occurred in China.
‘‘The activity underlying the forfeiture orders is alleged money laundering,’’ police said.
Proceedings started against Yan and You in August 2014. Restraining orders were obtained over various items of property associated with the couple, including a penthouse apartment in central Auckland, a number of luxury vehicles, and substantial shareholdings. Related proceedings had been started in December 2013 against Zeng and Huang. They were alleged to have assisted in money laundering and various property associated with them was restrained, including three Auckland properties, a Porsche and Maserati, and over $4.5 million bank funds. Once the settlement sum was paid, the restrained properties, vehicles, shareholdings and third party assets will be released from the restraining orders, police said.
William Yan in 2012, with Dover Samuels, after being found not guilty on five immigration fraud charges.