Metro Vancouver properties valued at nearly $10 million remain in the hands of people prosecuted in the U.S. for money laundering, Postmedia has learned.
Three properties were discovered during Postmedia’s compilation and analysis of 12 cases — reported Saturday — of money laundering in real estate in British Columbia dating back nearly 30 years.
During the time the properties in West Vancouver, White Rock and Richmond have been owned by the money launderers, or alleged money launderers, their value has increased by 50 per cent — some $3.1 million.
Postmedia’s findings are a result of an examination of U.S., federal Canadian and British Columbia court records; B.C. property and corporate records; archived Postmedia News reports; and interviews with those familiar with the cases.
James Cohen, executive director of Transparency International Canada, a global anticorruption advocacy group, says the fact these properties remain in the hands of those prosecuted highlights that jurisdictions are not sharing enough information and underscores the global nature of money laundering.
Barriers need to be broken down, said James.
“It’s these kid of loopholes — that criminals thrive on,” he said.
In one case, a $2.73-million Richmond home at 6160 Udy Rd. continues to be owned by Kuang Wan Fang, convicted by a U.S. federal jury of racketeering, money laundering, international transport of stolen money, and passport and immigration fraud.
She’s held the property since 2001.
Kuang was handed an eight-year jail sentence in 2009 and deported from the U.S. to China in 2015. Her husband, Xu Chaofan, was handed a 25-year sentence on the same charges and was deported in 2018.
On a weekday morning in November, a barking dog inside the Udy Road house showed someone was living there. There was no answer at the door.
Xu and two other bank executives embezzled $670 million from a branch of the Bank of China between 1992 and 2001, fleeing to the United States, according to U.S. and B.C. court proceedings. Some of the money was used to buy three homes in Richmond.
Two of those homes have been sold under court order, the result of a civil suit in B.C. Supreme Court launched by the Bank of China to recover money.
A 2015 B.C. Supreme Court judgment, which found Kuang owed the Bank of China $670 million plus interest, remains registered on title against the 6160 Udy property as of this month.
Bank of China officials could not be reached to respond to questions and one of the lawyers who represented the Bank of China in the civil suit, Vancouver lawyer Jeff Horswill with DLA Piper LLP, said the firm “did not have instructions to discuss the case with the media.”
In a second case, a $5.68-million West Vancouver home, at 3630 Mathers, remains in the name of Vision Crest Consulting Group Ltd., one of more than a dozen shell companies that convicted money launderer Greg Mulholland had set up to funnel funds from stock frauds, according to B.C. and U.S. court proceedings.
In 2016, Mulholland, a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen, pleaded guilty in the U.S. to money-laundering conspiracy for a pump-and-dump scheme of more than 40 stocks that netted profits of $325 million. As part of the plea deal, Mulholland agreed to forfeit the West Vancouver house and a Whistler property. The Whistler property has been sold and proceeds of about $1.3 million paid into trust in 2016, according to a B.C. Supreme Court suit launched by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to recover a penalty owed by Mulholland in another pump-and-dump scheme.
It is unclear from the B.C. Supreme Court rulings on those cases, what has or will happen to the West Vancouver house or the funds held in trust.
A U.S. law enforcement source knowledgeable about the case told Postmedia that forfeiture of the house and trust funds is still being pursued.
In a third case, Zhao Shilan was indicted on immigration and money laundering in the U.S. and pleaded guilty to immigration fraud in 2017. As part of her guilty plea, she agreed to forfeit properties in New York, California and Washington state worth tens of millions of dollars.
Zhao’s ex-husband Jianjun Qiao, a former Chinese government official, is accused of embezzling $50 million from China’s state grain company and moving money through shell companies to Hong Kong, British Columbia and the United States, according to a U.S. District Court indictment filed in Los Angeles in 2014.
A few month after moving to the U.S. as an immigrant investor, Zhao, who posed as Qiao’s wife even though they had been divorced for years, created a numbered company with her as sole director in British Columbia, 0930499 B.C. Ltd. With that company, in 2012, she bought a condo in Richmond and a house in White Rock valued at a combined $1.1 million, according to B.C. property and corporate records.
The condo in Richmond was sold in 2016, while the White Rock home at 14162 North Bluff is now valued at $900,500 and remains in the name of the numbered company, according to property records.
On a weekday morning in November, a man who answered the door at the property said he knew nothing of its ownership.
Qiao fled the U.S. and recently was in custody in Sweden. Zhao has not been sentenced yet in the U.S. in consideration of her continued co-operation in the case, according to filings on her sentencing in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles declined to comment on the White Rock property.