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Current as of 09/12/16 07:39PM NZST
Acting Business Editor for the NZ Herald

Business Insider: Fox hunter on fugitives' trail

No requests for NZ help from China's asset hunters
Xi Jinping with John Key during his 2014 visit. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Xi Jinping with John Key during his 2014 visit. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Could the new hound leading Chinese President Xi Jinping's "fox hunt" sniff out any fugitives who have fled to New Zealand?

China's Ministry of Public Security announced late last month that a new agency, the Department of Overseas Fugitives Affairs, would help handle the hunt for suspected economic criminals who had absconded from the Asian superpower.

"Operation Fox Hunt" began 18 months ago as part of Xi's crackdown on corruption and was among the topics raised with Prime Minister John Key when the Chinese leader visited this country in November 2014.

But although the pair discussed legal co-operation, Crown Law has told Business Insider it received no new requests last year for assistance from Chinese counterparts.

During that time, more than 850 fugitives from 66 countries returned to the People's Republic, Chinese media reported last month.

This suggests that if any of these suspected criminals are in New Zealand, they've so far escaped the eye of their former Government.

Either that, or they have voluntarily turned themselves in to the Chinese police - as 366 people did last year.

When it launched the campaign, the Chinese Government estimated that 16,000 to 18,000 corrupt officials and employees of state-owned enterprises had fled with pilfered assets of more than 800 billion yuan ($166 billion) since the mid-1990s.

No sex for sale

Sex sells - just not to investors on the New Zealand stock exchange.

Our bourse is a sexless landscape, with no adult entertainment enterprises either wanting or needing to raise capital on that market.

While not familiar with the ins and outs of the industry, Business Insider reckons any prospect of such a listing lay with businessmen, and brothers, John and Michael Chow.

Michael (left) and John Chow say their company will not sell sex. Photo / Supplied
Michael (left) and John Chow say their company will not sell sex. Photo / Supplied

The property developer rich-listers, who also own a number of brothels and strip clubs, are already poised to make a backdoor listing via NZAX shell company RIS Group.

The proposed transaction involves RIS purchasing two accommodation properties from the Chow brothers, who in turn will take over more than 90 per cent of the company's shares.

RIS shareholders will meet this month to consider whether to accept the deal.

Business Insider, however, was told by John Chow that RIS is intended strictly for property assets rather than any part of the brothers' adult entertainment empire, which he said made up only 15 to 20 per cent of their group's business. The size of the adult entertainment market was limited and the brothers were already major players in it, he said.

"There's not enough demand. Okay, you give me more capital - I don't know what I'd do with it," Chow said yesterday.

But while there seems to be little appetite for doing so, Business Insider reckons there would be nothing stopping anyone in the local industry from listing.

While the exchange has a discretion to refuse IPOs, Business Insider doesn't see what grounds it would have to object to perfectly legal businesses wanting to go public. Sex industry stocks, while unheard of on the local market, are nothing new internationally.

Business Insider's research has unveiled numerous examples, the best known being Beate Uhse AG, which is listed on the Frankfurt stock exchange.

The company became Germany's first "erotic share" when it went public in 1999.

Another trailblazer in the field is Nasdaq-listed, Texas-headquartered RCI Hospitality Holdings, which owns "gentlemen's clubs and restaurants".

Hollywood Madam, Heidi Fleiss, gestures to the trading board behind her at the Melbourne Stock Exchange. Photo / Bloomberg
Hollywood Madam, Heidi Fleiss, gestures to the trading board behind her at the Melbourne Stock Exchange. Photo / Bloomberg

A little closer to home, Melbourne's Daily Planet adult entertainment company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange in 2003. Later renamed Planet Platinum, the firm hit the rocks last year, with a judge in December ordering it be wound up.

Plea reversal bid

Aaron Coupe - who owns a central Auckland office building - is trying to reverse the guilty pleas he made for allegedly running a business while bankrupt and concealing income from authorities.

The businessman's case was due back in the Auckland District Court this week but was delayed, with no new hearing date set.

In the same court last year, prosecutors told a judge they believed Coupe's alleged offending was worthy of a prison term.

At that time, Couple had pleaded guilty to seven charges, including two of misleading the Official Assignee, three of concealing assets from the OA and two of managing a business while bankrupt.

However, Business Insider can reveal that before he could be sentenced, Coupe made a bid to vacate those pleas. That bid is yet to be determined. Coupe is the sole director and shareholder of Greys Avenue Investments, which owns a building on that inner-Auckland street which houses coin minter and bullion dealer NZ Mint.

He became involved in the management of the company in December 2014, a year after being discharged from bankruptcy.

- NZ Herald

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