By Joanne McCarthy of the Newcastle Herald
Former Hightrade boss Li Zhang has returned to Australia to face multi million dollar tax fraud charges linked to a Hunter resort development at Lovedale.
New Zealand Police Media confirmed a male "has been extradited to Australia today" after a surrender order issued on August 30.
Mr Zhang, 56, was arrested in Auckland in April and held in custody more than a decade after leaving Australia in April, 2009 after the Australian Taxation Office and Australian Federal Police executed search warrants at various Hightrade properties.
Mr Zhang initially indicated he would fight extradition to Australia where his Hightrade group is alleged to have defrauded the Commonwealth of more than $10.5 million in goods and services tax during construction of Resort Hunter Valley at Lovedale between 2002 and 2007.
On August 30 Mr Zhang told Auckland District Court Judge Nevin Dawson he would returned voluntarily to Australia to face charges.
Mr Zhang was arrested by New Zealand Police after officers attended a minor car crash on April 4 and responded to an Australian warrant for his arrest.
The Chinese-born Australian citizen had been living at a high-end rental property north of Auckland but it is unclear how long he had been living in New Zealand. Mr Zhang is also believed to have spent time in Hong Kong.
The Australian Tax Office alleges a sophisticated scheme involving multiple Hightrade companies working at the Lovedale resort between 2002 and 2007 meant "the goods and services tax liability fell into a GST accounting 'no man's land'."
The Tax Office alleges the interaction of four Hightrade building companies and multiple Hightrade "supplier" companies resulted in funds moving "in a round-robin-like manner" across the construction group that inflated the cost of building Resort Hunter Valley by more than $115 million.
It allegedly resulted in Hightrade companies receiving goods and services tax credits of more than $10.5 million more than they were entitled to receive.
- Newcastle Herald