Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Estate of murdered Chinese investor sued by accused killer for farmland profits

Estate of murdered Chinese investor sued by accused killer for farmland profits

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Li Zhao, who is accused of murdering Chinese businessman Gang Yuan, has filed a claim in B.C. Supreme Court seeking a one-third share of the Yuan estate’s profits from the sale of 47 Saskatchewan farm properties.
Zhao claims he and Yuan were in a joint-venture to develop Saskatchewan farmland, according to documents filed with the court last month.
A deal planned by Yuan’s company to sell the properties in Saskatchewan was near completion, Zhao’s claim states, when Yuan was found shot and cut into 100 pieces in his West Vancouver mansion on May 2, 2015.
Zhao, 56, has pleaded not guilty to the second-degree murder of Yuan, 42. 
In his criminal trial, a judge ruled this week that Zhao’s confession to West Vancouver police is admissible. The court heard that Zhao told police he and Yuan were in business together in an agricultural company and were having legal problems with the company. Zhao told police that following an argument with Yuan, who lived in his British Properties home with Zhao and Zhao’s wife, he fatally shot the victim and cut up his corpse with a saw. 
While Zhao’s criminal trial continues, a number of civil claims are underway in B.C. courts, as Yuan’s relatives in China and Vancouver battle over his Canadian assets, including Saskatchewan farms and luxury properties in Vancouver, estimated to be worth about $50 million in 2015.
In addition to his Canadian fortune, Yuan had mining interests in China. And according to a 2015 court verdict in southwestern China, Yuan was linked to a government corruption and bribery scandal that led to a 19-year jail term for an official named Yunye Lin. 
Li Zhao’s B.C. Supreme Court claim states that Yuan was the sole shareholder of a company called State Agriculture Development Inc.
“At the time of his death, Mr. Yuan and/or State Agriculture were the owners of at least 47 farm properties in Saskatchewan,” Zhao’s claim states. 
The Supreme Court claim does not mention that Zhao is on trial for Yuan’s killing.
Zhao claims that he and Yuan agreed to invest in Saskatchewan farms in 2011, after Zhao had researched the investment and had incorporated a company in Saskatchewan called Green Land Agricultural Development Inc.
Zhao and Yuan agreed that “instead of Mr. Zhao purchasing the farmlands and holding them in Green Land, that Mr. Zhao would pay back some of the funds that Mr. Zhao and his wife had borrowed from Mr. Yuan to purchase a house in West Vancouver, and that Mr. Yuan would then use those funds and other money to purchase,” the land through Yuan’s company, State Agriculture.
According to Zhao’s claim, he and Yuan agreed that Zhao would purchase and manage the farm properties as a director for State Agriculture, and instead of receiving a salary, Zhao would eventually receive a third of the profits from the leasing or sale of the land.
In 2012, State Agriculture bought 47 parcels of land for $3.7 million in Saskatchewan, and also a condo in Regina for the administration of the venture, legal filings say. Zhao completed “all or the majority of the work,” related to the farm investment venture, his claim alleges.
In late February 2015, Yuan negotiated an agreement with an unidentified buyer that was to purchase the Saskatchewan farm properties from State Agricultural for $7.8 million, according to Zhao’s claim. The claim says the agreement was to be executed on or before May 25, 2015.
“Mr. Zhao understands that State Agriculture ended up selling the farmlands for significant profit,” Zhao’s claim states.
But the estate of Gang Yuan has not paid Zhao a third of the profits from the Saskatchewan land sales or leasing of the lands, Zhao’s claim alleges, arguing that is a breach of contract.
“As a result of the breach of contract, Mr. Zhao suffered and continues to suffer loss and damage,” the claim states. 
Zhao’s name is the only one listed on B.C. registry filings for Green Land Agricultural. Zhao’s listed address on the company filings is 3333 The Crescent, a Shaughnessy mansion. The 11,000 square-foot property, which “was built for the former lieutenant-governor of B.C.” according to an MLS listing, is owned by the estate of Gang Yuan and a trust company. In June it was listed for sale at $17.88 million, according to MLS data, down from a previous listed price of $18.8 million.
Zhao is asking for a full accounting of the profits from the farmland venture, and asking for a trust interest in any of the land or properties in Saskatchewan owned by State Agriculture or the estate of Gang Yuan.
The estate of Gang Yuan has yet to respond to Zhao’s civil claim. 

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