Fugitive tycoon Zeng Wei's offshore holdings tied to loan scandal

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 February, 2014, 4:49am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 February, 2014, 4:49am

Fugitive mainland Chinese tycoon Zeng Wei, who is facing extradition to Hong Kong from the United States, is tied to at least five offshore companies, including one that was involved in a multimillion-dollar bribes-for-loans racket investigated by the ICAC, leaked company documents show.

The property developer, hotel and golf course mogul is wanted in Hong Kong on charges of bribery and conspiracy, in relation to three loans amounting to HK$2.7 billion he got from ICBC (Asia) in Hong Kong between 2006 and 2007.

He and his wife, US citizen Nicole Yang, were found to have held stakes or directorships in at least five offshore companies registered in the British Virgin Islands, according to documents that were provided by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

The leaked records show that in October 2007 - on the very day that Zeng asked ICBC (Asia) for a loan of HK$2 billion - a mysterious party under the name of ICBC (Asia) Nominee Limited became a shareholder in his BVI-registered company Lozatow Investments.

A bank nominee usually is a client of the bank. It is unclear if the lender just holds the stake for a third party.

The loan application was initially rejected. Zeng reapplied and ICBC (Asia) approved the loan in November 2007.

Lozatow Investment passed its share in Shine City International Limited, the company that received the loan, to ICBC (Asia) in March 2008.

Holding stakes in offshore companies does not in itself indicate criminal intent or any wrongdoing, but the practice of moving wealth to offshore tax haven has raised questions due to their secrecy and lack of accountability.

ICBC (Asia) would not comment. The ICAC also declined to comment on Zeng's case, citing the extradition request to the US. Zeng's lawyers Bruce Berline and Nelson Xu in Guam were unavailable for comment.

Zeng, 51, was arrested at the airport of Saipan, a US territory in the Pacific Ocean, last month when he failed to pass border control with a Chinese passport under a different name.

He is scheduled to stand trial in Saipan on April 14 on his attempted misuse of a passport and making a false statement.

A court in the territory rejected his application for bail on February 10.