Business reporter for the NZ Herald

May Wang found guilty of fraud charges

May Wang has been found guilty of fraud charges in Hong Kong. Photo / Nick Reed
May Wang has been found guilty of fraud charges in Hong Kong. Photo / Nick Reed

Failed Crafar farms bidder May Wang has been found guilty of fraud charges in Hong Kong over attempts to buy the North Island properties.

Wang, 53, and her two co-accused were convicted by a jury on Friday, Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) said in a statement.

The trio will be sentenced in May and are not facing any charges in New Zealand.

Wang, also known as May Hao, was found guilty of two charges of conspiracy to defraud, according the ICAC.

Wenjye Yee and Jack Chen were found guilty of the same charges while Chen was also convicted of an additional count of dealing with property known to be the proceeds of crime.

Wang is best known in this country as a failed purchaser of 22 North Island dairy farms, known as the Crafar Farms.

Sixteen of these farms were eventually bought in 2012 by China's Shanghai Pengxin for a sum thought to be about $200 million.

According to prosecutors, Wang and Chen induced Hong Kong-listed firm Natural Dairy to acquire the Crafar Farms from one of her companies.

This company, according to prosecutors, did not own the farms but would purchase them with Natural Dairy's money in the name of another of Wang's firms, UBNZ Assets Holdings.

Natural Dairy would, in turn, own UBNZ Assets Holdings and therefore the dairy farms.

Although the Crafar Farms were on the brink of bankruptcy, Wang and Yee falsified accounts so they appeared to be in substantial profit.

The trio failed to declare that Chen and Wang had an agreement to share the commission arising from the sale and purchase of the farms.

Unaware of this relationship, and ignorant of the true state of the farm's finances, prosecutors say Natural Dairy approved the acquisition and in 2010 raised HK$955 million (NZ$186 million) to finance it.

Funds to buy the farms were allegedly transferred into a trust account of Auckland law firm Knight Coldicutt, which also had done work for companies associated with Wang.

Four of the 22 farms were purchased for $25.5 million in February 2010 and in May a deposit was paid for the remainder of them, pending Overseas Investment Office (OIO) approval of the transaction.

But later that year Wang was declared bankrupt in New Zealand and then arrested with Chen in Hong Kong. A week later, the OIO refused to grant permission for the purchase of the remaining farms.

- NZ Herald

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