CORRUPTION
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Xi Jinping's anti-graft campaign

Major Vancouver property developer is a Chinese corruption suspect wanted by Interpol

Photos of Michael Ching match Interpol fugitive Cheng Muyang, who fled Hong Kong in 2000

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 April, 2015, 3:12pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 October, 2016, 8:15pm

A prominent Vancouver property developer has been identified as a Chinese corruption suspect who is wanted by Interpol, the South China Morning Post can reveal.

Photographs of businessman Michael Ching Mo Yeung, the president and CEO of Mo Yeung International Enterprise, match Interpol's photo of fugitive Cheng Muyang, who is sought by the People's Procuratorate of Qiaoxi district in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, for graft and concealing and transferring illegal gains.

Cheng, 45, is the son of Cheng Weigao - a powerful official who served as party chief of Hebei and later chairman of the local people's congress. Cheng Weigao was investigated for corruption and subsequently expelled from the Communist Party in 2003. He died in disgrace in 2010.

The son was named by graft watchdog the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) in its investigation report against the father. "Our investigation showed that Cheng Weigao, while he was the senior leader of Hebei province, abused power to help his son Cheng Muyang to grab money. [Their illegal actions] have caused huge losses to the state," said the report carried by Xinhua last Thursday.

Guo Guangyun, a former mid-ranking official who spent eight years working to expose the Cheng family, confirmed the Post's findings that the photo of Michael Ching was that of Cheng Muyang.

"I had seen him in person before, in the late 1990s, when he came to Shijiazhuang railway to look for projects," Guo, who spent 15 months in jail on trumped up charges when he tried to expose Cheng's activities, told the Post.

But his one-man crusade eventually brought down the powerful politician. Guo, now 73, is hailed by mainland media as an anti-corruption fighter.

He said he would "love" to see Cheng Muyang brought back to China to face justice.

"At the time I suggested to the CCDI to put the son on surveillance because he had done many illegal things. Unfortunately, his father got wind of it and managed to arrange his escape," Guo said.

Cheng Muyang, a permanent Hong Kong resident, fled from the mainland to the city in 2000. He left Hong Kong for Canada in the same year, according to the CCDI. China only made a formal request to Interpol on August 27 last year to put Cheng on its wanted list.

Cheng was last week included among the 100 financial fugitives whose photos and details were released by the CCDI as part of the graft-busting Operation Skynet. Reports emerged last week that Ching and Cheng were the same person.

Ching's representatives have refused to discuss the matter. But photographs of Ching at a 2011 Liberal Party event in Richmond near Vancouver appear to show the same baby-faced man whose face is also on Interpol's Red Notice which can be seen online here. The images show a man with the same distinct mole on his right eyebrow ridge.

Amy Venhuizen, Ching's executive assistant at Mo Yeung International Enterprise, told the Post on Monday that she could not comment on the allegations, and that she had not heard them before. She said she would ask Ching to respond, though she believed the accusations to be a "personal matter".

Ching is a well-known businessman in Vancouver whose company is behind major projects such as the massive International Trade Centre in Richmond, which is scheduled to open outside Vancouver's international airport in 2017.

The ITC is slated to include two high-rise office towers, a luxury 110-room Opus Hotel, as well as 34,000 sq ft of shops and restaurants.

Ching attended the 2011 Richmond event in his capacity as a director and vice-president of the Canada Asia Pacific Business Association (CAPBA). Ching is also described as an "honorary adviser" to the CAPBA, a pro-business group that says it is dedicated to promoting trade and commerce between Canada and the Asia-Pacific region. All of its directors and office bearers are Chinese-Canadians.

CAPBA president Elsa Wong did not respond to a voicemail seeking comment on Ching.

When the Richmond hotel project was announced in May last year, Opus Hotel Corp president John Evans said of Ching: "We are thrilled to be working with Michael Ching of Mo Yeung - the leader in merging innovative lifestyle brands with the bricks-and-mortar of development." The Post has yet to receive a response from Evans seeking comment about his business associate.

Although the Red Notice against Cheng Muyang does not explain explicitly the crimes of which he is accused, the CCDI described it as a "major corruption case". It lists his former positions as manager of the Beijing branch of an advertising company and director of an investment company.

The official Guang Ming Daily reported in 2004 that Cheng Muyang migrated to Hong Kong in 1993 - just two years after graduation. It was not clear how he obtained the right of abode. The report said that as a result of his father's help, Cheng, who started without any capital, made "several hundreds of millions" in less than 10 years. His first major business deal was with Northern Telecom Limited in Canada.

The Post has no evidence of Cheng's guilt or innocence.

The decision to release the list of 100 fugitives is believed to be an attempt to put public pressure on foreign police to pursue fugitives on China's behalf.

Cheng is among 26 fugitives on the CCDI list who are suspected of having fled to Canada. They include the so-called "ringtone king" Li Xiangdong, 49, a China Mobile executive who is reported to have absconded in 2010 with 400 to 600 million yuan.

Another is Wang Yanwei, 58, former chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference for Huadu district in Guangzhou. Wang, who is wanted for accepting bribes, reportedly fled from China to Canada in June 2013.

China and Canada do not have an extradition treaty, complicating Beijing's efforts to track down corruption suspects.

However, Beijing has managed to secure fugitives from Canada using other means. Most prominent of these was smuggler Lai Changxing , who also fled to Vancouver.

He was eventually deported because of his failed immigration status and after Beijing promised not to execute him. The Hong Kong passport Lai used to emigrate was revoked and a claim of refugee status was denied by Canadian authorities. He is serving a life prison term in China.