William Yan has returned to New Zealand after spending two months in China on trial for fraud charges.

The 45-year-old millionaire - also known as Bill Liu, Yang Liu and Yong Ming Yan - was spotted in downtown Auckland yesterday but declined to comment.

His lawyer, Marc Corlett QC, declined to comment on the outcome of the trial but confirmed he had accompanied Yan on the trip.

The pair flew to Beijing in November and returned to Auckland on Thursday last week.

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"I can confirm that Mr Yan and I travelled to Beijing on 12 November with representatives from the Ministry of Public Security in China. We returned to New Zealand on 12 January. I am unable to comment further at this stage," Corlett said.

William Yan is safely back in New Zealand after returning voluntarily in China to face fraud charges. Photo / Jason Oxenham.
William Yan is safely back in New Zealand after returning voluntarily in China to face fraud charges. Photo / Jason Oxenham.

Yan's safe return to New Zealand comes two months after Chinese authorities hailed his voluntary return to China as a great success for 'Operation Skynet', a global crackdown on nationals alleged to have corruptly stolen money and fled overseas.

Yan was ranked number 5 on a list of China's top 100 most wanted fugitives and 11 other SkyNet suspects live in New Zealand, according to Chinese state media.

He was photographed being escorted off the plane in Beijing and surrendering to police.

"Yan's return, once again, proves there is no safe haven, and the 'SkyNet' will get increasingly tighter," the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said in the statement.

His voluntary return to China to face fraud charges in November came three months after a record-breaking deal with New Zealand police.

More than $40 million of Yan's assets were frozen in 2014 as New Zealand detectives worked closely with Chinese officials.

William Yan pictured shortly after his arrest in 2009 on immigration charges. He was later acquitted. Photo / Greg Bowker.
William Yan pictured shortly after his arrest in 2009 on immigration charges. He was later acquitted. Photo / Greg Bowker.

The case was heading to a six month High Court trial until Yan a

last August as a "full and final" settlement without admission of "criminal or civil" liability.

Court documents show Chinese authorities claim the 45-year-old "orchestrated several complex deceptions" in a $129 million fraud when he was the chairman of a pharmaceutical company in 2000.

Operation Galaxy also uncovered Yan's SkyCity records where he gambled $293 million over 12 years, despite being banned twice for two years and losing $23 million.

Yan has said he made his fortune legitimately in China and the two identities he came to New Zealand with, Yong Ming Yan and Yang Liu, are valid because he was fostered out by his birth parents in China.

His safe return to New Zealand is the latest twist in a saga dating back to 2001 when Yan, whose Kiwi citizenship and political connections have been at the centre of years of controversy, arrived in New Zealand.

He first made headlines for his links to the previous Labour Government and the decision to give him a New Zealand passport in 2008, despite having multiple identities and an Interpol alert against his name.

After lobbying from Dover Samuels, a Labour MP at the time, former Labour Minister Shane Jones overruled the advice of Department of Internal Affairs officials, who said Yan did not meet the good character test for citizenship.

William Yan with friend and former Labour MP Dover Samuels. Photo / Brett Phibbs.
William Yan with friend and former Labour MP Dover Samuels. Photo / Brett Phibbs.

Yan later stood trial in the High Court at Auckland in May 2012 on five charges of making false declarations on immigration and citizenship papers.

Justice Timothy Brewer acquitted him despite saying the evidence "proves a situation that is highly suspicious".

The Auditor-General later investigated how Yan came to be granted citizenship, and criticised Jones, but found no evidence of wrongdoing.

Jones said he believed Yan would be executed if sent back to China.

The back story

2001: Arrives in New Zealand with two identities, Yang Liu and Yong Ming Yan.

2002: Granted permanent residency as Yang Liu.

2005: Applied for citizenship. Makes donations to Labour and National.

2007: Immigration New Zealand's moves to revoke permanent residency vetoed by minister.

2008: Three MPs write in support of citizenship application. Citizenship approved by ministerial prerogative, against advice of officials. VIP ceremony held at Parliament. Changed his name to William Yan.

2009: Arrested at Auckland Airport and charged with making false declarations on his immigration and citizenship papers.

2012: Found not guilty in High Court at Auckland, despite Justice Timothy Brewer saying the evidence "proves a situation that is highly suspicious".

2013: Auditor-General criticises former Cabinet minister Shane Jones for granting citizenship but said there was no evidence of wrongdoing.

2014: Police raid Yan's penthouse and seize his assets as part of a civil money-laundering inquiry.

2016: Forfeits $42.85 million to police to settle the civil case. Voluntarily returns to China to face trial on fraud charges.

2017: Returns to New Zealand.