William Yan agrees to pay $43 million

William Yan (file)
William Yan (file)

A controversial Chinese businessman with links to the Labour Party is paying out the Government almost $43 million to settle the seizure of his assets.

William Yan has managed to avoid any criminal and civil responsibility for his alleged money-laundering, in the two-year long court case.

He's fifth on China's most-wanted list for allegedly stealing about $129 million in a complex fraud. But Mr Yan will most likely avoid extradition to China - where he would face the death penalty - because members of the Labour party signed off his New Zealand citizenship in 2012.

Former Labour MPs Rick Barker and Dover Samuels, who lobbied for Yan, have declined to comment on the payout.

Mr Yan was granted citizenship by then-Immigration Minister Shane Jones in 2008 against the advice of Department of Internal Affairs officials, who said he did not meet the good character test.

Once Yan pays the $42.8 million expected to be shared between New Zealand and Chinese governments, assets belonging to Mr Yan and his wife Wei You will be released back to him.

It is the single largest forfeiture in New Zealand history, say police. Assets that have been restrained include a penthouse apartment in central Auckland, a number of luxury vehicles and shareholdings in companies such as Kim Dotcom's Mega.

Mr Yan's alleged ill-gotten gains "allegedly derived from a series of frauds allegedly perpetrated in China between 1999 and 2001".

He allegedly used a complex series of trusts and accounts under other people's names to hide the money.

"This is a significant success for New Zealand Police," says Detective Inspector Paul Hampton.

"The outcome in this case reflects the effective working relationship between Chinese and New Zealand law enforcement agencies."

Two of Mr Yan's associates - Yingzi Zeng and Shui Yong Huang - also had assets seized.

William Yan was born Yong Ming Yan. He used the names 'Bill Liu' and 'Yang Liu' to get a New Zealand passport and citizenship, before changing his name to William Yan.

His multiple names came about after he spent time in foster care - both his real and foster parents used different names for him.

He fled China in 2000, and was considered an enemy by the Government for his links to the Falun Gong and pro-democracy movements.

Mr Yan was granted New Zealand residency in 2002, and applied for citizenship in 2005. Between then and 2008, his application was held up by investigations into fraud allegations made by the Chinese government.

In 2006 the Australian government seized $4.3 million of his and gave it to the Chinese government under proceeds of crime legislation. Mr Yan agreed to forfeit it, but didn't admit liability.

He donated to both Labour and National before the 2008 election, and now-disgraced former National MP Pansy Wong backed his application for citizenship.

David Cunliffe, who was Immigration Minister until late 2007, chose not to revoke Mr Yan's residency status, but wanted investigations into his activities to continue. He was "somewhat surprised" when Mr Jones granted it.

In 2012 Mr Yan was found not guilty of immigration fraud.