Saturday, June 8, 2019
Bribe suspect‘s homes seized as AFP joins forces with Beijing
JUNE 8, 2019
Federal police have for the first time confiscated suspected Chinese proceeds of crime in a co-operation deal with Beijing, seizing assets worth more than $4 million from a businessman now thought to be holed up in the Caribbean.
Three properties have been forfeited to the commonwealth following advice from China’s Ministry of Public Security about 32-year-old businessman Hui Ji.
It is understood Mr Ji was suspected in China of bribing officials to secure construction contracts prior to arriving in Melbourne in 2012, bringing millions of dollars with him. He is suspected of using a Chinese passport issued with a false name — Kai Zhang — to enter Australia and used that identity to create businesses, open bank accounts and buy residential and commercial properties.
The Supreme Court in Melbourne yesterday ordered the assets be forfeited, after the Australian Federal Police said it was suspected Mr Ji had engaged in money laundering and identity fraud while in the country.
It is the first time such an order has been granted under a joint agency agreement with the Chinese Ministry of Public Security.
The properties, frozen six months ago, include one in Oakleigh South in Melbourne’s southeast that used to house an IGA supermarket and is believed to be worth $1.5m. The property was purchased through a holding company for $3m in 2015.
A two-bedroom apartment in the exclusive Eureka Tower in Southbank, purchased for $870,000 in 2014 and held in Mr Ji’s wife’s name, was also seized.
A five-bedroom, two-storey home in Glen Waverley, in Melbourne’s southeast, purchased for more than $1.33m in 2012, was the third property seized. It was advertised as “vast” and “luxurious” when purchased by a holding company.
Mr Ji, understood to also hold passports issued by the Caribbean nation of Saint Kitts and Nevis and Guinea-Bissau in west Africa, left Australia in 2017. His wife — whom he married in Australia — and child have also left the country. His current whereabouts are unknown, although there are suspicions he may be in the Caribbean.
The investigation into Mr Ji began when Beijing notified Australian authorities they suspected proceeds of crime from China were being laundered here. His assets were frozen in November, but were not forfeited until this week “in the absence of proceedings commenced by the respondent”, an AFP spokeswoman said.
“It was alleged in court that the assets were listed as owned by a Chinese national operating under an assumed identity,” she said. “The 32-year-old subsequently left Australia and is believed to have relocated to the Caribbean.
“The funds from the sale of the properties will be deposited into the Confiscated Assets Account.”
The forfeiture is part of $21m in cash and assets frozen as a result of a joint investigation by Australian and Chinese authorities.
In November, more than $8.5m in jewellery, vehicles and properties in three states were “restrained” on suspicion that two Chinese nationals had come to Australia, set up shell companies and bought assets with alleged proceeds of crime from China.