23 Aug 2016

Businessmen ordered to forfeit $42.85m

4:20 pm on 23 August 2016

Controversial businessman William Yan and three others have been ordered to hand over almost $43 million of property in a record settlement over alleged money laundering.

Police said the $42.85m forfeiture order was the largest in New Zealand to date and the first that related to crimes alleged to have occurred in China.

The settlement is against William Yan (also known as Bill Liu, Yang Liu and Yong Ming Yan), Wei You and two of Mr Yan's associates, and followed discussions between the parties and approval by the High Court.

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It was made under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act without any admission of criminal or civil liability, police said.

"The settlement follows a complex three year investigation undertaken by the Waikato Asset Recovery Unit focusing on money laundering large sums of funds allegedly derived from a series of frauds allegedly perpetrated in China between 1999 and 2001," police said.

Proceedings started against William Yan and Wei You in August 2014. Restraining orders were obtained over property associated with the couple, including a penthouse apartment in central Auckland, luxury vehicles, and substantial shareholdings.

Related proceedings had been started in December 2013 against Yingzi Zeng and Shui Yong Huang, associates of Mr Yan. They were alleged to have assisted in money laundering and restraining orders were put on various assets including three Auckland properties, a Porsche and Maserati, and over $4.5 million bank funds.

Once settlement money has been paid, the restrained properties and assets will be released, police said.

Detective Inspector Paul Hampton said it was a significant success for police. "The outcome in this case reflects the effective working relationship between Chinese and New Zealand law enforcement agencies."

The next process will be determining how the recovered money will be shared between the New Zealand and Chinese governments.

China's state-run media said that country's law enforcement officers had been negotiating to extradite the Auckland millionaire listed fifth on its most-wanted fugitives list.

The former Labour MP and associate immigration minister Shane Jones came under fire after a decision to grant Mr Yan citizenship in 2008, overriding advice from officials.

Justice Minister Amy Adams said this afternoon there had been no formal request to extradite Mr Yan.

She said Chinese officials had only asked what was required to extradite him.

"I haven't had a formal extradition request, I understand that officials from China have made contact informally with my officials, and expressed some interest and made some information-gathering requests, but no extradition request."