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Former RB Patel Supermarket Source of A Multimillion Dollar Court Case

The former RB Patel supermarket property in Suva’s Waimanu Road has been a source of a multimillion-dollar trial. Details emerged after a Chinese businessman Aidong Zhang was tried at the
25 Aug 2019 11:31
Former RB Patel Supermarket Source of A Multimillion Dollar Court Case
The former RB Patel supermarket property on Suva’s Waimanu Road has been a source of a High Court trial.

The former RB Patel supermarket property in Suva’s Waimanu Road has been a source of a multimillion-dollar trial.

Details emerged after a Chinese businessman Aidong Zhang was tried at the High Court in Suva for one count each of obtaining property by deception and of money laundering.

De Xin International Trading Investment Co. Ltd is currently operating from the building.

The court found that between June 1, 2014, and September 30, 2014, Zhang obtained by deception the property at 148 Waimanu Road (former RB Patel Supermarket). It was purchased for $5,500,000.00, and Zhang dishonestly obtained $1,240,740.74 belonging to a Mr Yong Chen with the intention of permanently depriving the said Yong Chen of the $1,240,740.74.

The court also found Zhang between September 3, 2014, and January 5, 2016, in Suva, engaged directly or indirectly in transactions involving an ANZ Bank Account to the total sum of $1,240,740.74.

These were the proceeds of a crime. the court found Zhang was found to have known or ought reasonably to have known that the money was derived directly or indirectly from some form of unlawful activity.

On July 15, 2019, the information was put to the accused, in the presence of his counsels. He pleaded not guilty to both counts. In other words, he denied the allegations against him.

The matter then proceeded to trial, in the presence of High Court Judge Justice Salesi Temo and three assessors for a total of 18 days.

In delivering his Judgment on Friday, August 16, Justice Temo said the assessors unanimously agreed the accused was guilty as charged on both counts.

Justice Temo upheld this decision.

Highlights of the case

The case for the prosecution was based largely on the direct evidence of the complainant, Mr Chen, an investor from China. He had told the court he was introduced to the accused Zhang by a Shi Yuhu, on his first visit to Fiji, in May 2012.

Mr Chen said, Mr Yuhu was a good friend of his since 2002, and he vouched for Zhang as a good person, a good businessman and that he had the ability to make a $10 million profit per year

As a result of the above, Mr Chen, his wife Mrs Chen, their daughter Chen Linlin, Mr Yuhu and Zhang met in Xiamen City, China on June 21, 2014, from which a “Joint Operation Agreement” (JOA) resulted from this meeting.

The parties agreed to start a business in Fiji, investing in real estate, import and exporting, including tourism.

They agreed they would set up a company in Fiji, to be called Bairain Group (Fiji) Limited (BGL).

Mr Yong Chen’s family would have 80 per cent share of the company, while Shi Yuhu and Zhang would have 10 per cent share each.

The company would have a capital of FJ$6 million dollars. Zhang was entrusted by the parties to register BGL in Fiji, and purchase, on behalf of BGL, some properties.

After the meeting, Zhang returned to Fiji. He was originally from China, but had settled in Fiji since 1991 and became a Fiji citizen in 1998.

In August 2014, Zhang found the 148 Waimanu Road property up for sale.

He later rang Mr Chen in China and advised him for Bairain Group (Fiji) Limited to purchase the property.

Zhang advised Mr Chen that the purchase price was FJ$5.5 million, and a FJ$1.5 million deposit was required.

However, the court heard, behind Mr Chen’s back, when dealing with the real estate agents selling the property, the purchase price was FJ$3.3 million and $330,000 deposit. Zhang was deceiving Mr Chen on the above.

Zhang later rang Mr Chen and advised that it was a good investment.

Mr Chen later told him to sign the sale and purchase agreement.

Zhang did so and advised Mr Chen to send in his family’s share of the $1.5 million deposit, that is, $1,240,740.74.

Zhang told Mr Chen, the balance of the same would be paid by Mr Yuhu and himself. Because BGL was not incorporated, Mr Chen and Zhang agreed that the money should be sent to Zhang’s company’s ANZ Bank Account No. 11779946.

The company was Ostanding Fiji Limited (OFL). Mr Chen sent the above money to the above account on 3 September 2014. BGL was incorporated on October 14, 2014. BGL opened an ANZ Bank Account No. 12137828 on November 11, 2014.

Chinese businessman Aidong Zhang was tried at the High Court in Suva for one count each of obtaining property by deception and of money laundering.

Chinese businessman Aidong Zhang was tried at the High Court in Suva for one count each of obtaining property by deception and of money laundering.

Zhang asked Mr Chen to send in the balance of the purchase price for 148 Waimanu Road property.

On 18 November 2014, Mr Chen deposited $4,037,620.65 into BGL’s above ANZ Bank Account.

Mr Chen totally trusted Zhang in his dealing on the 148 Waimanu Road property deal, the court heard.

Settlement of the property was completed on December 4, 2014.

In early 2015, it was brought to Mr Chen’s notice that Zhang had been misrepresenting to him the real purchase price and deposit for the property since August 2014 to settlement on December 4, 2014.

After visiting Neel Shivam Lawyers in March 2015, Mr Chen later found out the correct purchase price for 148 Waimanu Road property was $3.3 million Fijian dollars and the correct deposit was $330,000.00. After much thought, Mr Chen decided to report the matter to Police in January 2016.

During Police investigation, it was discovered that Zhang had not used the $1,240,740.74 Mr Chen sent him on September 3, 2014, as a deposit for 148 Waimanu Road property. Zhang used the same on himself and his family, the court heard.

Comments from Justice Temo

Justice Temo said the circumstantial evidence summarised in the summing up supported Mr Chen’s version of events.

“As a result of the above, I find the prosecution’s witnesses’ evidence credible and I accept them accordingly,” Justice Temo said.

“Between the complainant’s version of events on the two allegations and the accused’s version of events on the same, I accept Mr Chen’s evidence and version of events.

“In my view, Mr Chen was a credible witness, and his version of events were supported by the numerous documentary evidence.

“As a result of the above, I accept the three assessors’ unanimous guilty opinion on count number one and two in the information, and I find the accused guilty as charged on both counts. I convict him accordingly on those counts,” Justice Temo said.

Zhang will be sentenced by the High Court in Suva on September 16..

Feedback: maraia.vula@fijisun.com.fj

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