Former Crafar farms bidder May Wang has been charged with corruption in Hong Kong, over business dealings said to have happened here in New Zealand while she was trying to buy the dairy farms.
Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption has charged the bankrupt May Wang with conspiring to bribe officials with two New Zealand properties and money laundering, and has issued a warrant for the arrest of Jack Chen for his role in the scheme.
Wang, who is now known as Hao May, faces one count of conspiracy to offer advantages to an agent and two of dealing with property known or reasonably believed to represent proceeds of an indictable offence, the ICAC said in a statement yesterday.
She will appear at the Eastern Magistracy today. Chen failed to report to the ICAC yesterday, and a warrant has been issued for his arrest.
The anti-corruption unit alleges Wang and Chen, known as Chen Keen, conspired between May 2009 and December 2010 to offer two Auckland properties and more than HK$73 million ($NZ11.8m) to Chen as payment for procuring Hong Kong stock exchange-listed Natural Dairy to acquire UBNZ Asset Holdings, which was owned by Wang.
Wang's UBNZ unsuccessfully tried to buy the Crafar family farms last year, which it then would have on-sold to Natural Dairy, having its application to the Overseas Investment Office turned down after failing to meet 'good character' tests.
UBNZ is still supplying milk to Natural Dairy after buying a facility in Tauranga, though Wang, who was bankrupted for her role in a previously failed business venture, is no longer affiliated with the companies, according to Companies Office documents.
New Zealand's Serious Fraud Office has just issued a press release confirming the charges against Wang, saying it came "following allegations of corruption involving the payment of secret commissions and money laundering."
The SFO release says that the conspiracy charge alleges that between May 2009 and March 2010, Wang conspired together with Chen Keen, then an executive director of Natural Dairy, and other persons to offer two properties in Auckland and a sum of over HK$73 million (NZ$11.8m) to Chen.
SFO chief executive Adam Feeley said that contact with Hong Kong authorities early in the investigation made it obvious for the two agencies to work together on the matter.
"There was information in both countries that was vital to the investigation, and this outcome would not have been possible without early and ongoing collaboration." said Feeley.
He said that the SFO considered charging the matter here in New Zealand.
"We believe that there is clear evidence of offending having occurred in New Zealand. However, the alleged crimes were primarily directed at Hong Kong and Chinese investors and we therefore consider it is more appropriate for the authorities in Hong Kong lay the charges.
"We assessed what possible charges may have been laid in New Zealand, and believe that the action being taken by ICAC fully deals with the concerns we identified in the course of our investigations."
Feeley said that the case highlighted the increasingly cross-jurisdictional nature of the SFO's work.
"The digital age makes it increasingly easy for financial crimes to be committed in more than one country, and highlights the need to have alliances with international law enforcement agencies.
"ICAC and the SFO have forged an excellent relationship from this case, and our law enforcement capabilities in the future will be strengthened by this."
The ICAC was set up in 1974 to reign in rampant corruption in Hong Kong's public sector, according to its website.
Meanwhile, the New Citizens Party, a political party registered earlier this year which is associated with Jack Chen is reportedly withdrawing from the general election race and will back Colin Craig's Conservative Party.
According to a statement from the Conservative Party, the New Citizens Party board had confirmed it will withdraw from the election campaign.
Paul Young, the New Citizens candidate in the Botany by-election earlier this year would now stand for the Conservative Party in the electorate next month.
"The values of New Citizens are very much aligned with the Conservative Party" says Young, "we understand the importance of family, business, and everyone making a contribution."
-BUSINESSDESK/ NZ HERALD ONLINE