A real estate agent has been suspended and fined $10,000 after selling three properties to his niece without disclosing their relationship, then lying to investigators to cover his tracks.
Former Barfoot & Thompson agent Yuding (Victor) Li lost his job with the company and was referred by Barfoot management to the Real Estate Agents Authority (REAA) after the offending came to light.
The disgraced agent has been found guilty of serious misconduct after a complaint by property owner Geraldine James relating to his time at Barfoot's Northcote branch.
James sold her Forrest Hill property at 9 William Souter St in late 2012. Victor Li was not the listing agent but showed the property to his niece, Li Li, who bought it for $756,000.
She on-sold the house through her uncle six months later for $980,000. He got a commission on both sales.
The Real Estate Agents Disciplinary Tribunal found he failed to disclose that Li Li was his relation and to provide a registered valuation to James, as required under the conflict of interest rules. When James complained she suspected the buyer was Victor Li's relative, he pretended his niece only shared the same surname and said their only association was in a "business capacity".
"Mr Li also directed Ms Lie [sic] to lie about their relationship if asked, and to inform the REAA investigator that they were second cousins," the decision says.
Victor Li eventually admitted the ruse during an interview with an investigator, and also revealed two other transactions in which he'd earned a commission but failed to disclose the relationship with his niece. Victor Li's lawyer said his client pleaded guilty at an early stage, co-operated with the authority and had not made any personal financial gain.
Speaking to the Herald on Sunday yesterday, Victor Li said he regretted his actions.
He was now out of work and borrowing money from relatives, but hoped to return to the industry when his ban was over in November. "At that time the [disclosure] policy was not really clear. If I had known the policy clearly, then I would probably do the declaration."
However, the tribunal found his behaviour amounted to serious misconduct and his deception brought the profession into disrepute.
Barfoot director Peter Thompson confirmed the company terminated Victor Li's contract at the time and referred the matter to the REAA.
The case follows that of Aaron Hughes who was sacked earlier this month after a Weekend Herald investigation revealed he bought two pensioners' home for $530,000 then on-sold it four months later for a $725,000 profit.
Hughes is now under investigation by the industry watchdog.