Suspect in murder of West Vancouver tycoon gave $14K to B.C. Liberals, donations records suggest
BY SAM COOPER APRIL 16, 2016
Li Zhao, the West Vancouver man charged in the horrific butchering of a Chinese mining tycoon, may have registered a $14,000 donation to the B.C. Liberals just days after the crime.
The victim, Gang Yuan — a multimillionaire who has been linked to a bribery and corruption scandal in China’s Yunnan province — was found allegedly chopped into 100 pieces at his British Properties mansion on May 2, 2015.
Yuan lived at the mansion with his cousin Xiao Mei Li and her husband, 55-year-old Li Zhao. Legal filings say that on May 8, 2015, Li Zhao was charged with murdering Yuan and “interfering” with his corpse.
B.C. Elections donation records show that on May 12, 2015, 10 days after Yuan’s remains were found, a man named Li Zhao paid $14,000 to the B.C. Liberal Party. The donor Li Zhao also paid $1,000 to the B.C. Liberal Party in a Vancouver riding in May 2005, election records show.
As election records only show the English language spelling of Li Zhao — rather than the Chinese characters — public documentation can’t confirm that it is the same man charged in Gang Yuan’s murder.
A review of B.C. property and financial documents only showed one Li Zhao with millions worth of assets living in the Lower Mainland.
A battle for the control of Yuan’s estimated $50-million estate continues in court. Yuan’s family from China has alleged that Li Zhao and his family had “unjustly enriched” themselves. Court filings say Yuan bought the West Vancouver home where he was murdered for $4.5 million in 2010, but he allowed the home to be purchased in the names of Li Zhao and Xiao Mei Li.
“I am very concerned that Xiao Mei Li or Li Zhao have been and will in the future dissipate the estate’s assets, including most immediately, the West Vancouver property,” an affidavit from Yuan’s brother Qiang Yuan stated. “It would be most troubling if Li Zhao were permitted to use an asset bought and paid for by my brother to secure his release on the charge of murdering him.”
According to the civil suit filed by Gang Yuan’s family, when the British Properties mansion was bought in 2010, “it was always the intention and understanding” that the property “was beneficially owned by Gang Yuan and that he permitted the registration … in the names of Zhao and Xiao Mei Li as a temporary measure.”
The home is now worth $7.6 million, assessment documents say.
In the background of the criminal and civil cases surrounding Yuan’s killing are questions about the source of his many assets, and how his fortune was transferred into Canada and invested by Gang Yuan and others.
According to reports in 2015, Yuan made his fortune after coming to Canada as a permanent resident in 2007, by developing real estate, buying B.C. homes and investing in Saskatchewan farmland. As The Province reported this week, there is more to the story.
In early 2010 Yuan bribed a corrupt Chinese official with a 1,000-gram gold bar worth about $50,000, a November 2015 verdict obtained by The Province states. Yuan’s mining company continued to pay gold bribes in exchange for coal mining rights into 2014, the verdict states.
Adding to the confusion over Gang Yuan’s investments in Canada, Qiang Yuan’s civil suit alleges that Xiao Mei Li was given a power of attorney in December 2010 to control Gang Yuan’s CIBC bank accounts and safety deposit box, and also sell securities for Gang Yuan. The suit alleges that Li Zhao and Xiao Mei Li “used the power of attorney to fraudulently misappropriate” funds from Gang Yuan’s CIBC accounts in order “to benefit the defendants.”
Li Zhao and Xiao Mei Li, in a legal response, claim they rightfully own title to the British Properties mansion and they have not misappropriated Gang Yuan’s assets. No allegations in the criminal and civil cases have been proven in court.
Lending documents say that a 55-year-old B.C. man named Li Zhao owns a 2014 BMW 528I xDrive Sedan, and a 2015 Infiniti QX60.
Land title records filed by the same notary who registered ownership of the British Properties mansion for Li Zhao and Xiao Mei Li in 2010, also show that in 2013, Li Zhao became owner of a $1.79-million Point Grey home. A Li Zhao is owner of a $555,000 home in Richmond, and a $713,000 home in Surrey, title records say.
The next date in the preliminary stages of Li Zhao’s criminal case is set for April 28, in North Vancouver Provincial Court.