The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in Hong Kong has charged a New Zealand resident with one count of conspiracy to defraud.
Forty-year-old Singapore national Yee Wenjye (40, aka Eric Yee) appeared before the court on January 18, 2012. He was the third person associated with an attempt to purchase the farm assets of the Crafar family (the Crafar farms) in New Zealand.
May Hao and Chen Keen, two others accused in the case, also appeared in the court again.
The case against the three men has been adjourned to 18 April 2012.
Mr Yee is accused of conspiring to defraud Natural Dairy (NZ) Holdings Limited, its directors and shareholders by falsely representing that the 22 farms owned by the CraFarms Group had made a profit of NZ$18.5 million for the year ending May 2009.
It is alleged that the company had in fact made a significant accounting loss for the year of around NZ$30 million.
The charges followed a joint investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in New Zealand and ICAC in Hong Kong.
SFO Chief Executive Adam Feeley said the further charge by Hong Kong authorities was consistent with the evidence his office had uncovered.
“The further charge reinforces our initial view as to the best options for law enforcement. We concur with the additional action being taken by ICAC and believe that our law enforcement efforts can be most effectively applied to supporting the ICAC case through the evidence of SFO forensic accountants involved with the investigation,” he said.
The Hong Kong Court had charged Mr Hao (earlier known as May Wang), former operator of UBNZ Assets Holdings Limited on October 17, 2011 with one count of conspiracy to offer advantages to an agent and two counts of dealing with property known or reasonably believed to represent proceeds of a crime.
Mr Keen (aka Jack Chen) was charged in Hong Kong on October 21, 2011 with one count of conspiracy to offer advantages to an agent and one count of dealing with property known or reasonably believed to represent proceeds of a crime.
Mr Yee is alleged to have conspired with them in misrepresenting the financial strength of the Crafar farms.
Natural Dairy is listed on the Main Board of the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong but trading has been suspended since September 7, 2010.
The SFO commenced its investigation in September 2010 when the Natural Dairy bid to purchase the Crafar farms in 2010 was assessed by the Overseas Investment Office. ICAC opened a separate investigation into Natural Dairy after receiving an allegation of corruption.
Mr Feeley said that the case underscored the increasing importance of sharing evidence and resources with overseas law enforcement agencies.
Source: Serious Fraud Office Press Statement