Saturday, 18 October 2008

IAN WISHART: Passport Scandal-two ministers, one MP implicated

The following is the full expose' of Ian Wisharts allegations that Labour took donations from a Chinese immigrant with several identities in exchange for New Zealand citizenship.

Two Ministers, one MP implicated

Ian Wishart 17 Oct 2008

A Chinese businessman allegedly wanted for fraud in China and whose assets were seized in Australia last year after he was found opening bank accounts using a different identity, has been awarded New Zealand citizenship by the Minister of Internal Affairs – against the recommendations of New Zealand citizenship officials. 

To make matters even more complex, TGIF Edition has been given information alleging the businessman told an official he had donated money to the New Zealand Labour Party. The Labour government ministers in the gun are Internal Affairs Minister Rick Barker, whose office Allegedly approved the citizenship against the advice Of officials,and Associate Immigration Minister Shane Jones who was brought in to make the final call on Barker’s behalf. Former Labour cabinet minister Dover Samuels sponsored the application.  

The businessman goes in this country by the name Yang (Bill) Liu.Property records reveal he lives in a plush Metropolis apartment in central Auckland with a 2005 valuation of $2.4 million. According to official certificate of title records, Yang Liu paid cash in 2002 – there is no mortgage registered against the property.

Records show Liu also owns a property in the Auckland suburb of Bayswater for which he paid $5 million early last year – again, in cash. However,documents obtained by TGIF Edition from the website of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions in Australia reveal he was prosecuted there under the alias of Yongming Yan: “Yongming Yan “YongmingYan,a citizen of the People’s Republic of China,was wanted by law enforcement authorities of China for alleged large-scale misappropriation and embezzlement offences committed in China.

Yan travelled to Australia on a number of occasions,first as Yan, and later under the name ‘Yang Liu’. “On these later occasions Yan is alleged to have produced a Chinese passport in the name‘Yang Liu’,and failed to advise Australian immigration officials that he had previously travelled to and entered Australia in the name ‘Yongming Yan’. “Whilst present in Australia,Yan opened and operated a number of bank accounts. Some of the bank accounts were opened and operated in the name ‘Yang Liu’, in circumstances where Yan allegedly failed to advise that he was also known by the name ‘ Yo n g m i n g Yan’, contrary to section 24 of the Financial Transaction Reports Act 1988. 

“On 22 August 2005 a civil restraining order under the POC Act 2002 was obtained over bank accounts held in the name Desant Group Ltd,a company registered in the British Virgin Islands. The accounts in the name Desant Group Ltd were able to be restrained on the basis that they were suspected of being under the effective control of Yan, who was operating the accounts in the name ‘Yang Liu’. The basis for the restraining orders was that Yan was suspected of having committed offences of opening and operating bank accounts in a false name in Australia.

“Yan later made an application seeking revocation of the restraining order.

“The DPP’s proceedings were ultimately resolved by orders of the Supreme Court of New South Wales on 15 November 2006, by consent, forfeiting the sum of A$3,374,236.19 to the Commonwealth. “On 7 June 2007, pursuant to the equitable sharing provisions of the POC Act 2002,the Australian Government repatriated a sum of over $3.37 mil- lion to the Government of the People’s Republic of China,”reported the Director of Public Prosecutions in October last year.

Fascinating stuff, but even more so when the documents obtained by TGIF Edition reveal Yang Liu’s Australian prosecution happened whilst Liu was already a New Zealand permanent resident and has been since 2002. The evidence for this is a signed letter by Labour MP and former cabinet minister Dover Samuels, written on Labour Party letterhead ,dated 30 January 2008 and addressed to Internal Affairs Minister Rick Barker.  

 “I personally know MrLiu,” begins Samuels,naming Liu’s partner and “two young children” before continuing: “Mr Liu has Permanent Residence and has lived in Auckland for six years or more. During the years that I have known him he has demonstrated to be a caring father and husband, with humility and generosity of spirit. “It is my understanding and confirmed by many New Zealand Chinese,that Bill is a decent law abiding person and would make a model New Zealand citizen.I agree with them. “Mr Liu is well known for his public profile, his advocacy of open democracy,social justice and Human Rights,”waxed Dover Samuels,“the same principles that make us proud to be NewZealanders.” Then, in the only clue that Samuels knew of darker allegations swirling around his protégé Yang Liu, he wrote,“Unfortunately, there are those who think otherwise.” Samuels didn’t specify what the“otherwise”might entail,but clearly he’s on the record as being aware, and his comment suggests the Minister was aware as well because Samuels saw no reason to elaborate further. Instead,he told Internal Affairs Minister Rick Barker: “Over the years,Bill has developed a constructive and meaningful relationship with Tangata Whenua, he has also made investments into the fishing and hospitality industry.” A further document, obtained by TGIF Edition, is the reply from Internal Affairs Minister Rick Barker to Dover Samuels: “Dear Dover,thank you for your letter dated 30 January 2008 supporting Yang (Bill) Liu’s application for a grant of New Zealand citizenship. A copy of your letter has been sent to the Citizenship Office to be attached to Mr Liu’s file. “I assure you that when Mr Liu’s application is forwarded to me for a decision, I will take his personal circumstances and your letter of support into consideration. Yours sincerely, Rick Barker.” On 17 March this year,the paper trail reveals the Internal Affairs Department’s Citizenship Office in Manukau wrote to Yang Liu about a hiccup in his application.

“One of the requirements of New Zealand citizenship is that an applicant must be able to satisfy the Minister of Internal Affairs that she/he is of good character,”wrote DIA’s Johannes Gambo. “As you are aware,there is still an active Red Interpol Notice recorded against your name, indi- cating that an arrest warrant has been issued by the Chinese judicial authorities.” Gambo suggested the best course of action was for Liu to ask China to rescind the arrest warrant, but an alternative route existed if preferred: “If, however, you do not wish to ask them to cancel the arrest warrant, your application should be referred to the Minister in an individual submis- sion…You may wish to provide additional information and evidence to satisfy the Minister that, in spite of the above information,you do meet the good character requirement.

“The Minister may approve your application if he  is satisfied that you have exceptional circumstances and that it would be in the public interest for you to receive the grant of citizenship.”

A further letter on Liu’s DIA file (file number CIT2005011583), dated 25 March 2008, reveals the Internal Affairs Department has grave doubts about the suitability of Yang Liu to even be in New Zealand as a permanent resident,let alone be awarded citizenship.

“Could you please answer the following questions in writing,”asked Gambo: 

1.How many identities do you have or have you used? 

2. Why are you using multiple identities? 

3. Which of these identities are false? 

4. What is your true name? 

5. What is your correct date of birth? 

6. Is your birth certificate a true record of your birth? If no,why? 

7. If 20 October 1972 was not your correct date of birth,why did you declare on your application form that you were born on 20 October 1972? Why are you using a Chinese passport that shows your date of birth as 20 October 1972? 

8. If 15 June 1969 was not your correct date of birth,why are you using a Chinese passport that shows your date of birth as 15 June 1969? Or why have you used a Chinese passport that shows your date of birth as 15 June 1969? 

9. How did you obtain this passport? What documents were used to obtain this passport (the Chinese passport authorities would have sighted documentation with this date of birth before issuing a passport to you)? 

10. What happened to these [other] passports: 144944669;143080886;140275129? 

11. What dates of birth and names were used in obtaining these passports? 

12. Are all the documents you have provided to us in support of your application genuine in every respect? If no,why? 

13. Were your travel documents,visas and permits all obtained legally using genuine documents? If no,why? 

14.What dates of birth have you used in your dealings with other government departments and non-government agencies in New Zealand and overseas (for example, banks, Inland Revenue Department,WINZ and LTSA)? Please provide documentary evidence. 

15.What names have you used [with the entities in 14]? 

16. How many identities have you used to enter (or depart from)United States of America?If more than one,why? 

17.How many identities have you used to enter (or depart from)Australia? If more than one,why? 

18.How many identities have you used to enter(or depart from) New Zealand?If more than one,why? 

19. How many offshore registered companies do you currently own? If any, where?   

20. How many offshore registered companies have you owned? If any, where?

The letter reveals knowledge of at least two international criminal investigations into Yang Liu,or whoever he really is,and further asks: “Apart from America and Australia, have you visited any other country in the last five years? If yes, why were they omitted from your application form?” Gambo’s letter concludes with a warning that it’s a criminal offence under s27 of the Citizenship Act to“knowingly or recklessly provide a false statement or submit false/forged documents in support of your citizenship application.” As is very clear,by this stage the DIA didn’t even know who it was really dealing with.Yang Liu is a man with two passports indifferent names, and possibly three other passports as well. His companies were also registered in the British Virgin Islands tax haven – the same haven where Labour’s previous major campaign donor,Owen Glenn,has domiciled his companies.  

According to TGIF Edition’s informant inside the DIA, Liu allegedly mentioned to a DIA case worker he had donated to Labour at a function at the Jade Terrace restaurant: “The Minister for Internal Affairs is giving New Zealand citizenship to people (people who have donated money to the party) who do not meet the requirements,”our informant said when first tipping us off about Liu’s case. “These citizenship's were given against the department’s recommendations. One recent case is in connection with a man who has multiple identities. He is also wanted by the law enforcement agency in his home country. 

The Minister approved the application against the Department’s recommendation. These actions are devaluing the New Zealand passport.” Our informant added tonight: “This is not the first one. The fact is that Mr Liu is unable to meet the“good character requirement”of the Citizenship Act. He was only approved because he is a big donor to the Labour party. He was also given an urgent ceremony. This is worse than Philip Taito Field’s story. You do not give a New Zealand passport to dodgy people without a reason.” Liu’s citizenship application was fast-tracked, according to DIA sources:“Mr.Liu got his citizenship on 11 August 2008 at a private ceremony in Wellington officiated by Dover Samuels.”

TGIF Edition received independent corroboration from one of our other sources that citizenship has indeed been conferred on Yang Liu, and Dover Samuels has confirmed he conducted the ceremony. Regardless of what motivated Labour to approve Liu’s citizenship, the hard facts are that Liu’s citizenship was approved by the Minister, despite knowing that Liu was using multiple identities, had not declared his aliases, and had allegedly supplied false information on his citizenship forms.Whilst Dover Samuels points out that Liu has not used his aliases in New Zealand, it’s a different story across the Tasman where bank accounts were opened using what police allege were false identities.

For Internal Affairs Minister Rick Barker and Associate Immigration Minister Shane Jones – knowing that DIA had discovered criminal breaches in Liu’s application punishable by up to five years’ jail – the questions they now face are serious. Many applicants for residency, let alone citizenship, have been turned away from New Zealand for far less. There is a punishment of up to ten years jail for anyone who issues a citizenship to someone not lawfully entitled to it,under the Citizenship Act.

Rick Barker denies making the final decision on Liu’s citizenship application,but the Department of Internal Affairs has gone on record this afternoon to confirm it sent its recommendations to the Minister. 

The file would have contained all the information uncovered,confirmed a DIA head office spokesman. Although Barker was actively involved in the file as recently as February this year,TGIF received confirmation from Dover Samuels this afternoon that Associate Immigration Minister Shane Jones was called in to act on Barker’s behalf. But why was Jones brought in? What Barker didn’t tell TGIF when we first approached him this morning,was that the Internal Affairs Minister has been a guest of honour at“fundraising”functions amongst the Chinese community at Auckland’s Jade Terrace restaurant. And not just Barker. 

TGIF only found out about the extent of fundraising when we sought comment from Labour Party President Mike Williams about Liu’s donation status. Williams told us that while he didn’t recognise Yang Liu’s name as a formal donor, he could well have attended fundraising functions that Labour hosted in Auckland. “Like the Jade restaurant?”we asked. “Yes,at the Jade,”said Williams,who referred us to one of Labour’s Asian candidates for further detail. Candidate Raymond Huo confirmed to TGIF Edition that “five or six fundraising dinners” have been held at Jade Terrace this year,including some featuring Rick Barker and others featuring Yang Liu’s friend Dover Samuels. Huo said Liu did not attend the fundraiser Huo organised on May 24,and was not invited. “I had been advised by a previous candidate, Steven Ching, to be ‘cautious’in my dealings with Yang Liu, so I never sought donations or assistance from him.” 

It’s understood up to $200,000 can be raised at a single event,on a good night.Mike Williams told TGIF that donations collected are“aggregated”rather than entered under the names of individual donors. We asked Barker whether it was wise for a Minister in his position to be hosting fundraisers within immigrant communities whose members could require him to determine their immigration status later.

“Can I come back to you on that?”Barker initially responded. After further questioning from TGIF Rick Barker began to elaborate on the fundraisers:“The implication you’ve got is that I attended a fundraising dinner with Yang Liu,and I want to say to you I have not.” “Would you know, if you had?” “I know the individual yes, but I have not attended a fundraising dinner with him.” “How do you know him?”,TGIF asked. “I’ll come back to you with the answers to a range of questions… I know who he is. I’m very careful about any fundraising function.I don’t do it for me personally, I do it for the party, and I’m very conscious that if anybody’s got any issues I don’t want them to participate in any function at all. “My office has a firm rule. Any offers of cash or money for services or anything like that is to be refused.” “How long have you known Yang Liu,”TGIF asked again. “Ah, I’m going to come back to you with my other answers as well. It’s part of a package of answers.” Dover Samuels’ friendship with Yang Liu is already on the record, but the revelation that Liu was known personally by the Minister of Internal Affairs is a bombshell twist to the case.

TGIF sought comment from Associate Immigration Minister Shane Jones, but he hung up on us. We wanted to ask Jones whether,as DIA staff allege, he had a role in letting Liu stay in the country,and whether in fact Jones was called on to make the final decision because of Rick Barker’s conflict of interest. Jones and his office have so far failed to respond. Officially,at press time, neither Rick Barker’s office nor Jones’office have confirmed Jones’role in the sequence of events. Dover Samuels,on the other hand, defended his decision to support Yang Liu despite the allegations swirling around them,telling the newspaper that Liu and his family were victims of a vendetta originating in China. Samuels says he was aware Liu had two different passports with different names, but says Liu told him it was because he was fostered out as a child.The passports however not only have different names, but the birth dates are three years apart. Samuels also claimed Liu had told him the Australian court verdict against him had been over- turned in a ruling only three weeks ago,but checks with the Australian prosecutor’s office have shown Liu’s claim is untrue.

Kathy Medved, from the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions head office in Canberra, told TGIF late today that the claim of a new court case overturning the verdict is “a fantasy”. “The situation remains exactly as we laid out in our official report last year,”she said. Dover Samuels also told TGIF that Liu had hired John Billington QC, but when we rang Billington this afternoon his response was:“Who? Idon’thave any idea who you are talking about.”

If Samuels was relying on Liu for his information, so far it hasn’t been convincing. Liu’s phone was going unanswered today. Samuels and Internal Affairs Minister Rick Barker – who both know Yang Liu – deny knowing whether he is a Labour party donor.Barker denies attending any fundraising “dinners”with Liu, but has not yet disclosed how he knows the man. And if Liu did make donations to Labour at a fundraising meeting,there is unlikely to be any official record because of Labour’s policy of simply lumping all the money together that is raised each night. While it makes the donation technically hard to prove,it also makes it technically hard for Labour to rule it out because of a lack of integrity in their fundraising methods. New Zealand Police already have a prosecu- tion underway of another former Labour cabinet minister,Taito Philip Field,into allegations that he received cheap tiling and painting from members of the Thai community in return for assisting their immigration applications. Police only launched their investigation of Field, however, after he refused to guarantee his vote in Parliament would continue to support Labour. An official government inquiry lasting months and costing a fortune was launched to ascertain whether,in fact,Field had received any donations of money or labour. Given the politicisation of the NZ Police headquarters,only a Serious Fraud Office investigation could possibly unravel the details of this latest citizenship scandal,one way or the other.

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