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Court approves $42m Yan forfeiture

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 23/08/2016

Auckland businessman and alleged money launderer William Yan will have to hand over property worth more than $42 million in New Zealand's largest court-ordered forfeiture.

The High Court has approved a seizure order against Yan, also known as Bill Liu, Yang Liu and Yong Ming Yan, and his wife Wei You as part of a settlement over suspected frauds in China, police revealed on Tuesday.

It's alleged the couple and two of Yan's associates, Yingzi Zeng and Sui Yong Huang, concealed their fortune in New Zealand after the alleged frauds in China between 1999 and 2001.

The parties agreed to the full settlement without admission of civil or criminal liability after the assets were frozen under the Criminal Proceeds Recovery Act, which would have required them to identify how the assets were purchased.

Yan, a New Zealand citizen who is fifth on China's most wanted list, has consistently denied wrongdoing.

"They were alleged to have assisted in money laundering and various property associated with them was restrained, including three Auckland properties, a Porsche and Maserati, and over $4.5m bank funds," police said in a statement on Tuesday.

"Once the settlement sum has been paid, the restrained properties, vehicles, shareholdings and third party assets will be released from the restraining orders."

The assets also include an 18.8 per cent share in file storage and encryption firm Mega, a company founded by Kim Dotcom in 2013 to replace his Megaupload empire.

He has since become estranged from the company which was subject to a hostile takeover by Chinese investors.

The settlement was reached after a three year investigation, police asset recovery manager Detective Inspector Paul Hampton says.

He said the outcome was a significant success for New Zealand law enforcement, and evidence of the relationship between the Chinese and New Zealand governments.

The recovered money will be shared between the two governments, with the amounts yet to be determined.

It's not clear whether China will seek to extradite Yan.

Prime Minister John Key says it's a good outcome, and doesn't know whether the Chinese will seek extradition.

"If they want to follow up on that, it's up to them," he told reporters.

"They would be able to do that without an extradition treaty, and go through the process."

Mr Key wouldn't comment on how the deal might be perceived in China.

"The police make the call, and they obviously made the call to make a deal."

Labour leader Andrew Little says he hasn't looked closely at it, but he's concerned when issues of justice are dealt with by making payments.

"If there's an impression people can buy their way out, that would be very disturbing," he said.

NZ First leader Winston Peters told reporters Yan had given donations to National and Labour.

"They all wrote letters of reference and here we are back in centre stage now, in a country that it's clear takes people that buy their way in," he said.

"I have concerns with the whole process and have had since 1988, when I first started telling you what was going to go wrong with the rise of immigration and every sort of Machiavellian application being accepted."

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