Auckland property investment scammer will be deported back to China

By Jeremy Wilkinson, Open Justice reporter of

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A man who was jailed after concocting an elaborate $6 million property scam to defraud overseas investors has been granted a year to get his affairs in order before he is deported back to China.

He and his female co-offender pleaded guilty to a raft of dishonesty charges in 2021 after they were found to have defrauded a wealthy couple by convincing them to buy part of an Auckland property development.

The man was served a deportation notice from Immigration New Zealand shortly before he was released from prison on parole in May last year. Since then he has fought to remain in the country by filing an appeal with the Immigration and Protection Tribunal (IPT).

In a recently released ruling, the tribunal declined his appeal but granted him a one-year visa to get his affairs in order and to pay the remaining $640,000 he still owes his victim.

NZME has not published the man’s name to protect the privacy of his young child.

However, he told NZME in an emailed statement that his mistakes “have not only harmed society and victims but have also had irreparable effects on my family”.

“Regarding the recent decision by the IPT, my family and I are deeply disappointed. This outcome has added to the challenges we are already facing,” he said.

“I am currently dedicated to rebuilding my life, repairing relationships with my family, and diligently working to move forward. I have severed ties with past acquaintances to focus on positive changes.”

According to the tribunal decision and court documents, the man’s scam involved a proposed investment property in an Auckland suburb.

An overseas investor was told he needed to invest certain sums of money to purchase the property, while the man and his co-offender also told him others were contributing towards the investment.

But they misrepresented the amounts required and no others were offering any funds.

The fraud, court documents show, included the use of a $10m loan agreement with forged signatures and numerous emails containing false invoices to help obtain the investor’s funds.

Phony invoices for the development were also generated as coming from law firms, a geotechnical company and an engineering and design consultancy as well as a forged Land Information New Zealand (Linz) title document.

The investor said in a victim impact statement he became suspicious about the arrangement and had his accountant examine the accounts, leading to the discovery of a multimillion-dollar shortfall.

The total sum of the fraud, the court heard, was $8m but the investor was deceived into paying about $6m.

Since then, the man has repaid $1.32m to his victims.

Both offenders served just shy of three years in jail after they pleaded guilty to charges of theft by a person in a special relationship, obtaining by deception, using a forged document, false accounting, and dishonestly using a document.

Because the man committed an imprisonable offence within five years of becoming a resident of New Zealand, he voided the terms of his visa and became liable for deportation.

However, the tribunal has the power to overrule Immigration New Zealand when there are exceptional circumstances of a humanitarian nature.

His claim to the tribunal was that since his offending, his life has been ruined and he has lost his savings, reputation, marriage and his freedom.

While now separated from his wife, he still helps service her mortgage, provides for his daughter and is looking after his elderly parents, who are also in New Zealand.

“His deportation would deprive his young daughter of his fatherly care and support and the enjoyment of a normal life,” his lawyer, Roger Chambers, said in submissions to the tribunal.

“The appellant’s elderly parents are permanent residents of New Zealand. They are unable to return to China as they have no property or assets there and are in poor health. The appellant is their only son and, if deported, he would be unable to support and care for them in their old age.”

Chambers said that deportation would expose his client to loneliness and depression as a result of forcible separation from his family and would be “unduly harsh”.

“The appellant has accepted his role in what was ‘rather comprehensive’ offending and put right the wrongs that he was involved in,” Chambers said.

Rhys Boyd, counsel acting on behalf of the Minister for Immigration, said the man had failed to meet the threshold for exceptional humanitarian circumstances.

“The appellant’s offending was in flagrant disregard to the rights of the victims,” Boyd said.

“It would be against the public interest to not deport the appellant because of the seriousness and number of his convictions, the extremely high monetary value and sustained nature of his offending, and the risk of recidivism.”

The tribunal took into account the man’s relationship with his daughter and that deporting him would be a significant upheaval for her.

“His parents will be faced with a difficult choice between remaining in New Zealand without their son and with the absence of the social support that he provides or a return to China with him where they no longer own a home and will face shame and humiliation of family members,” the tribunal noted.

“In addition to these factors, the tribunal has the best interests of the appellant’s daughter at the forefront of its mind as a primary consideration that must be weighed in determining whether it would be unjust or unduly harsh for the appellant to be deported.”

Ultimately, the tribunal found it would not be unduly harsh for the man to be deported.

However, it exercised its discretion to grant him a year to get his affairs in order in terms of arranging care for his daughter and parents, and to pay the remaining $640,000 he still owed his victim.

* This story originally appeared in the New Zealand Herald.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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