A controversial Korean spiritual leader and businessman has been fined $1.2 million for purchasing several Northland properties without the proper consent.
Seung Heun Lee was ordered to pay $1,246,625 plus $30,000 in legal costs after Justice Muir found he and his companies Double Pine Investment and Mediation Tour Limited did not follow the Overseas Investment Act rules.
Between 2014 and 2016, Lee bought seven Northland properties for $10.4 million to use for his meditation tour practice.
At the time, he was not a New Zealand resident, although he is now.
He claims because English is his second language, he did not completely understand the sale documents he signed and thus didn't know he needed consent for the purchase under the Overseas Investments Act.
Overseas Investment Office Group Manager Anna Wilson-Farrell said this is another example of the consequences overseas investors face for not seeking specialist advice before investing in New Zealand.
"It is a privilege to invest in New Zealand, and overseas investors will continue to be held to account if they do not comply with the rules."
Lee is the spiritual leader of the Brain and Body system (formerly known as Dahn Yoga) - an organisation that has been the focus of several critical reports and lawsuits overseas, including allegations of being a cult.
A Brain and Body spokesperson told NZME in 2018 these were incorrect and based on "frivolous claims".
"It's totally understandable that people should be suspicious of something they don't understand and it's easy to fall into the trap of labelling it as a cult," she said.
"The fact is, it's not a cult and the organisation has very few of the typical characteristics of a cult."