Anne Gibson

Anne Gibson is the Property editor of the NZ Herald

South Korean property mogul jailed

Delevoper who planned Auckland CBD tower now behind bars in home country.

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

South Korean media are reporting the jailing of the multimillionaire property developer who last decade proposed New Zealand's tallest building.

Huh Jae-ho, the former chairman of the now-bankrupt Daeju property empire, once wanted to build the 67-level $450 million Elliott Tower in Auckland's CBD.

But when he returned to his home country on Saturday, after living overseas for four years, he was taken away, reported the Korea JoongAng Daily.

"He was taken straight to prison labour house to pay off his fine," it reported yesterday.

"Huh, 72, was convicted to tax evasion and embezzlement in 2011 by the Supreme Court which handed down a two-and-a-half-year prison term (suspended for four years) and ordered him to pay a 25.4 billion [$27.5 million] won fine," the daily said.

A film crew was due to arrive in Auckland yesterday to investigate his actions here.

The Kyunghyang Shinmum also reported on the case last year.

"Huh Jae-ho, former chairman of the Daeju Group, was charged for failing to pay 50 billion won in corporate taxes and for embezzling 10 billion won. In December 2011, the Supreme Court sentenced him to two-and-a-half years in prison with four years' probation and fined him 25.4 billion won."

Sean Park, who worked with Huh Jae-ho in New Zealand, wanted to emphasise that the Korean returned home voluntarily from Auckland.

Marcus Beveridge, the Auckland-based Queen City Law chief, acted for Huh Jae-ho last decade.

Meanwhile, a New Zealand-based co-ordinator for Korea National Broadcast said a crew was due to arrive in Auckland yesterday to investigate the case. They would spend a few days here, looking into his activities, she said.

Huh Jae-ho's Auckland tower was meant to be ready by Rugby World Cup 2011, planned to rise almost as high as the Sky Tower on the vacant Royal International Hotel site where NDG Auckland Centre is now proposed by a Chinese developer.

The Elliott Tower was designed by architect Gordon Moller and Multiplex Constructions (NZ), then headed by Dan Ashby who is now at Hawkins, was the preferred builder.

In 2006, Dae Ju Last Housing got non-notified consent from Auckland City Council to build a 35-level apartment tower on the former Auckland Star site between Fort St and Shortland St.

In 2007, the Herald reported Huh Jae-ho paid $11.5 million, one of the highest prices at the time, for an Auckland house which Beveridge said could soon be demolished and replaced with six townhouses. Richlisters Diane and Bill Foreman had put the house on the market for $10 million via Kellands Real Estate in 2003 but the property did not sell for years until an Auckland businessman paid $10 million, but he lived there for only a short time.

Diane Foreman said at the time that she had sold the house to the businessman and was unaware the Korean had subsequently bought it.

The Foremans developed a substantial palisade wall to prevent their waterfront cliff section from eroding.

In 2008, Beveridge said Daeju planned to start building the 259-unit Elliott Tower by 2009. But nothing happened and the site was sold.

Auckland-based staff working for Huh were looking for other properties in Takapuna, the Herald reported.

- NZ Herald

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