Keeping an eye on Communist, Totalitarian China, and its influence both globally, and we as Canadians. I have come to the opinion that we are rarely privy to truth regarding the real goal, the agenda of Red China, and it's implications for Canada [and North America as a whole]. No more can we rely on our media as more and more information on China is actively being swept under the carpet - not for consumption.
Saturday, January 30, 2016
Follow the money: Evidence submitted at fraud probe points to concerns about Vancouver real estate market
Follow the money:Evidence submitted at fraud probe points to concerns aboutVancouver real estate market
Interviews conducted by B.C. Securities Commission investigators and read into evidence in a Securities Commission fraud hearing against Ayaz Dhanani reveal a complex real estate transaction with connections to alleged fraud and organized crime players.
This raises big concerns about Vancouver’s property market and the B.C. Real Estate Act.
In late December 2014 Vancouver realtor Liang Ming Wei walked into the frenetic dining hall of Floata in Chinatown. With hundreds of diners and waiters racing around with steaming plates of dim sum, the Keefer Street restaurant was perfect for an obscure transfer.
Wei had arranged for three million yuan to be deposited in a Chinese bank and transferred to a Richmond currency exchange. Exchange owner Tony Xu called Wei and told the realtor his client’s cash had arrived and it was converted to $521,470 Canadian.
It was 10 times the legal amount individuals are allowed to transfer from China. And it was 50 times over the $10,000 limit that must be reported under Canada’s anti-money-laundering laws.
Instead of having Wei come to his Richmond location to pick up the cash, Tony Xu said it was better for the realtor to meet his brother Frank Xu in Vancouver. Wei’s client Zhongyun Zhang, a Chinese transportation professional, had come to Vancouver in August 2014 and set up a Bank of Montreal account with Wei’s help.
She had listed his Burnaby home address as her own. And on the title deed of Wei’s home she claimed to be a homemaker. Bank documents said she was a Canadian resident. None of it was true.
In Floata, Liang Ming Wei took three bank drafts totalling $470,000 and a cheque for $50,000 from Frank Xu, all made out to Zhongyun Zhang.
The money was supposed to come from Zhang’s account in China. But one of the bank drafts came from a Vancouver dentist who did not know Zhang, and was victim of an alleged fraud by a man named Ayaz Dhanani.
The other two bank drafts came from citizens who also did not know Zhang.
According to evidence tendered at a B.C. Securities Commission hearing, the financial instruments handed to Wei in Floata had passed through at least five sets of hands. These elaborate transactions occurred because Wei had told Zhang that “no matter what,” she must have $500,000 in Canada to buy a house.
The linchpin in the exchange was Edwin Shek-Yin Cheng, a Vancouver money launderer and loan shark who was well known to Western Canada organized and commercial crime investigators.
In June 2015, six months after the three bank drafts were deposited by Liang Ming Wei into Zhang’s bank account in West Vancouver, Edwin Cheng was found shot dead inside his car outside a Sikh temple in Richmond. Witnesses said assassins pulled up in a black SUV and blasted Cheng’s car with about 20 bullets.
Details of this disturbing case were revealed in the Securities Commission fraud hearing. But the offshore money transfer and real estate activities investigated by The Province were not the focus of the fraud proceedings. What’s more, the real estate activity that apparently drove these transactions is not being probed by B.C.’s Real Estate Council.
NDP MLA David Eby, B.C.’s opposition housing critic, said facts gathered by The Province provide perhaps unprecedented detail and corroboration of similar allegations reported to his office concerning offshore buyers and local realtors.
“I was really troubled by the facts in your case,” Eby said in an interview. “And I’m concerned this is not a one-off situation, and this could be a systemic, regular practice. There is enough information to raise red flags for investigations.”
Ayaz Dhanani (Facebook photo)
DENTIST FILED COMPLAINT
None of the evidence regarding Zhongyun Zhang’s transaction would have come to light unless a Vancouver dentist who was allegedly duped by Dhanani in a gold stock investment scam had complained to the BCSC.
The dentist, who suggested he was afraid to speak on the record, spoke on condition he would be identified only as “John.”
John testified he was befriended in Vancouver by Dhanani, whom he met at a party in late 2014. According to testimony, Dhanani — who is to be arraigned next week in provincial court on charges of assault, obstructing justice, theft over $5,000 and fraud over $5,000 — persuaded John to invest $120,000 by promising the dentist he would get a 40- to 50-per-cent return within months, with zero risk.
Over dinner at The Keg in the downtown Vancouver Shangri-La tower, John said, he was told to make out his bank draft for $120,000 to the name Zhongyun Zhang. According to BCSC testimony, when John asked Dhanani why the draft should be payable to a person he did not know, Dhanani replied: “Bro, I do this many times and in lots of different ways, and it helps me to fly under the radar for tax purposes.”
John filled out his bank draft on Dec. 17, 2014, and allegedly passed it to Dhanani, who passed it to his associate Edwin Cheng, BCSC investigators allege. John testified that he did not deal with Edwin Cheng at all, but knew a bit about him.
“I met him a couple of times at a party at Ayaz’s house, and the way I’ve described him to friends that I’ve talked to about him was somebody who’d be able to look you in the eyes and stab you without blinking,” John testified. “That’s the sense that I got off him.”
Edwin Cheng passed John’s bank draft to Frank Xu. Frank Xu passed it to the realtor Liang Ming Wei at Floata, the Chinatown dim sum restaurant, according to Wei’s statement to BCSC investigators.
BCSC investigators asked Wei about the handoff from Xu that day, and if the dollar amount was correct.
“Money is a sensitive matter,” Wei replied to investigators. “After I received it, I calculated it, I signed, I signed yes, and then I took it.”
And Wei deposited John’s bank draft and two other bank drafts from unnamed persons into Zhang’s West Vancouver BMO account on Dec. 30, 2014, bringing her account total from zero to $470,000.
The three bank drafts could have financed a Vancouver home purchase at any time, a BCSC hearing was told. But John got nervous when he didn’t receive his promised investment return by January. He called the BCSC in March 2015 to launch an investigation. And investigators contacted BMO to order Zhongyun Zhang’s account frozen.
In an interview, John claimed that beyond being “utterly betrayed” in his investment he had no idea that his cash was allegedly laundered in what investigators called a “complicated transaction (in which his) bank draft was deposited into the bank account of a woman with whom he had no connection, and in fact, had never heard of.”
“I’m pretty shocked, actually,” John said. “It just unveils a huge, intricate network. It also begets the question of what money fuels the Vancouver real estate industry? And in what light does it show how well the real estate profession is policed in this city?”
VANCOUVER MARKET 'IS HOT'
While trying to discover the flow of funds and any connections between Ayaz Dhanani and others, a BCSC investigator interviewed Liang Ming Wei, Zhongyun Zhang, and Frank Xu. Frank Xu told an investigator he did not meet Dhanani and knew nothing of a gold stock investment.
“I didn’t know him, like, before this transaction, right. Before — it was through a guy, name’s called Eddy (Cheng). We got the bank draft from Eddy, yeah.”
Frank Xu said that he did not know Zhongyun Zhang, either, but that realtor Wei told him $500,000 handled by the Richmond currency exchange was to be deposited in Zhang’s account for “a real estate transaction.”
Wei told an investigator that he did not know Dhanani, or whether the alleged fraudster was connected to anyone else in the case.
Investigative transcripts read into BCSC hearing evidence do not make it clear why Wei had Zhang’s name on the title of his Burnaby home as a “homemaker,” or whether he counselled her to provide false information that could confuse Canadian or Chinese authorities.
Wei was asked about his advice as a realtor to Zhang, transcripts say, and “why he went through this elaborate transaction to transfer money from China to Canada.”
“The bank in China doesn’t provide this kind of service,” Wei said.
“She was still hesitating about buying a house or a condo, but as a realtor, I recommended her buying a house … I told her that the market in Vancouver is hot … ‘It’s better for you to send amount money to Vancouver so when there is a house that you’re satisfied with we can place an order right away’ … I told her that, ‘No matter what, you need to have $500,000 in Canada.’”
Before Wei was interviewed in June 2015, an investigator met with Zhang, who had come to Vancouver with her lawyer because her BMO account was frozen.
Zhang could not shed light on reasons for the repeated false claims made in Canadian bank documentation. She was asked why she claimed Canada as her residence when opening a BMO account.
“I don’t remember. Perhaps at the time the bank clerk suggested that to put the Canada down,” Zhang answered. Park Royal BMO management did not respond to questions from The Province on this story.
Zhang was also asked by a BCSC investigator why she claimed her realtor’s Burnaby address as her own.
“I really don’t know. What kind of address is that?” she responded.
In an absurd exchange, Zhang could not tell a BCSC investigator the source of the $470,000 that was deposited into her account Dec. 30, 2014.
“Where was that money coming from?” she was asked.
“I don’t know.”
“It’s your account, how is it that you don’t know?”
“I cannot recall.”
“Is it possible that you might have deposited that money?”
“I cannot recall.”
“So do you know why these three people that you don’t know anything about are depositing money into your bank account?”
“I don’t know.”
Corporate documents that were not reviewed in the BCSC case show that in March 2015 Liang Ming Wei took out a lease on a 2014 Rolls-Royce Ghost with another debtor identified as Canada Jiapeng Investment Group. The company was incorporated on Dec. 22, 2014. Director of the company is a person named Zhong Gui Zhang. The Rolls-Royce Ghost retail prices start at $360,000, a Vancouver dealer told The Province.
Liang Ming Wei did not respond to multiple requests for comment, and his lawyer also did not respond to questions for this story.
Edwin Cheng was murdered in the parking lot of a Richmond gurdwara in 2015 (Nic Procaylo/PNG photo)
MURDER PROBE STILL ACTIVE
A BCSC investigator attempted to question Edwin Cheng in June 2015 before learning that he had been shot dead. Transcripts obtained by The Province do not reveal what investigators believed about Cheng.
In 2011 Cheng was arrested and charged in Calgary with three others in a joint organized crime fraud investigation involving the Calgary Police Service and the RCMP Commercial Crime section.
Calgary’s economic crime unit said the four were part of “a commercial enterprise” of “organized” cells sent from B.C. to Alberta to steal cash advances from casinos and buy high-end clothing and electronics using counterfeit credit cards.
Police seized 47 counterfeit credit cards, eight counterfeit driver’s licences and $16,000 in cash.
When Cheng was murdered in June 2015 he was facing bankruptcy proceedings, court records show. As a Vancouver “salesman” he owed the Canada Revenue Agency $743,888.
In several interviews, a Chinese-Canadian businesswoman told The Province that she had known Cheng and had completed financial services for him. She said he retailed expensive goods stolen outside B.C. in Richmond, that he “washed money and take percentage” and was involved in loan sharking at casinos. The woman said she believed Cheng “was standing between real business and gangsters.”
“He was very smooth,” said the woman, who did not want to be named. “He used to say if money can solve the problem — then it is not a problem.”
The investigation into Cheng’s murder remains active, said Integrated Homicide Investigation Team spokeswoman Sgt. Stephanie Ashton.
Tony Xu, reached by phone at his office in Richmond, said he remembered the 2014 transaction involving his brother Frank, the realtor Wei, and Zhongyun Zhang’s account.
“It’s a normal transfer, not much story about that, I think,” Xu said. “A lot of money transfers from China to here to buy property ... The average price of a house here is $3 million, so what do you think is normal?”
BCSC spokesman Richard Gilhooley declined to discuss specifics of the Ayaz Dhanani case.
David Eby is MLA for Vancouver-Point Grey (B.C. NDP photo)
In an interview, NDP MLA David Eby said that a client’s use of a realtor’s home address and misreporting of country of residency and occupancy in official documents raises concerns that Fintrac, Canada’s anti-money-laundering agency, is “intentionally or otherwise” being avoided.
Eby said that, coincidentally, issues highlighted in this story are relevant to concerns about which he has already contacted B.C.’s Real Estate Council. In a Jan. 4 letter obtained by The Province, Eby informs the council of allegations that Vancouver realtors “frequently complete Fintrac required forms” by encouraging clients to provide the realtor’s address rather than “the buyer’s true address (in order) to foil Fintrac’s legislated mandate to track the source of international money.”
“If you are misreporting all those elements, it frustrates the ability of Canadian law enforcement agencies to do their work,” Eby told The Province.
He said a credible realtor brought forward the allegations and claimed to have witnessed other realtors misreporting Fintrac information. Eby also complained to the council about allegations that Vancouver realtors are helping clients quickly flip or “assign” purchase contracts to other buyers by arranging extra-long sale closing periods, thereby assisting buyers to profit in Vancouver’s ultra-hot market by avoiding property transfer taxes. If true, the allegations mean that realtors are being paid to help clients dodge taxes.
Similar anonymous allegations involving West Vancouver’s real estate market have been forwarded to The Province.
Eby provided a response to his Jan. 4 complaint from the B.C. Real Estate Council, in which a lawyer states the council will not investigate the allegations.
“The concerns you raise in your letter appear to relate to compliance with Fintrac and federal and provincial tax laws,” the council’s director of legal services states.
The Province got a similar response after repeatedly questioning the council about specific issues revealed in BCSC fraud hearing evidence.
“The council cannot make a determination as to whether any of the actions in relation to (the realtor’s) opening of the bank account or the handling of the cheques and bank drafts were wrongful,” spokeswoman Marilee Peters stated to The Province. “The material that you have asked us to look at does not appear to involve the provision of real estate services as defined by the Real Estate Services Act.”
The council is a self-regulating industry body funded by B.C. realtors’ dues. Eby, who is a lawyer, said that in his opinion the council’s responses show it does not want to dig into connections between offshore money and Vancouver realtors.
“I can only gather that they aren’t interested,” Eby said. “There are enough red flags.”
Fintrac spokesman Darren Gibb said allegations that Vancouver realtors are encouraging clients to misreport Fintrac-mandated information that is used to track sources of offshore funds are “very serious.” Gibb said he could not comment on whether allegations are being investigated.