Solicitor and wife of former dairy firm director convicted of laundering HK$230m

Solicitor and wife of ex-company director mishandled funds for NZ dairy takeover

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 August, 2014, 4:15am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 August, 2014, 9:40am

A solicitor and the wife of a former director of listed company Natural Dairy Holdings (NZ) were convicted yesterday of laundering more than HK$200 million.

Wu Wing-kit, 57, was found guilty in the District Court of laundering HK$68.95 million, while Ye Fang, 43, was convicted of dealing with the proceeds of indictable offences totalling HK$230 million.

Ye burst into tears during a court break after part of the judgment had been read to Wu but before she heard her own.

Some of the money Ye handled came from Wu, making the total amount of laundered funds HK$230 million, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) said.

The court heard earlier that between December 2009 and February 2010, Natural Dairy - formerly known as China Jin Hui Mining Corporation - had raised HK$790 million to acquire 22 dairy farms in New Zealand.

The deal prompted a complaint of fraud to be filed to the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong.

Ye's husband, Chen Keen, and two other officials from Natural Dairy were charged with conspiracy to defraud over the purchase of New Zealand-based UBNZ Assets Holdings. Chen was also charged with money laundering.

The ICAC said that of the HK$790 million, HK$693 million was remitted to a lawyer representative for National Dairy Holdings. Of that amount NZ$51.6 million (HK$334 million) was paid to the company that was to sell the farms.

A representative of that company then transferred HK$73.3 million back to a National Dairy representative, who wrote a cheque for HK$68.95 million to Wu's law firm, Fred Kan & Co.

Wu then deposited the money into Ye's account.

The court also previously heard that Ye had dealt with the money passed to her by Wu, plus a further HK$161 million, from March 2010 to October 2011.

She deposited all the funds into her bank account.

In court yesterday, Judge Eddie Yip Chor-man specifically criticised Wu's inaction in respect of the large amount of funds.

The judge said this went beyond professional negligence.

"He did not make any inquiries at all," the judge said.

Yip adjourned sentencing to August 29, when he will hear mitigation. He remanded both Ye and Wu in custody.

Shares in Natural Dairy Holdings have been suspended from trading in Hong Kong since September 2010 despite a resumption request last year.

According to its website, most of the company's stores are in mainland China.