Auckland millionaire Yang Liu, wanted by Chinese authorities over alleged financial fraud, was granted New Zealand citizenship in August despite officials’ advice to decline his application.
Liu, who is being investigated in New Zealand for possible immigration fraud, did not meet the good character requirement of the Citizenship Act, Department of Internal Affairs officials told Shane Jones, the delegated Minister for Internal Affairs.
Officials advised that Liu was the subject of an Interpol notice for an arrest in China for allegedly committing serious financial fraud there totalling about $NZ2.7 million, using one of his companies.
It was alleged that Liu had fraudulently obtained and used Chinese identity documents relating to another identity, including two false passports, according to documents released under the Official Information Act.
While officials clearly recommended that Liu’s application for citizenship be declined, Jones ticked the option approving the grant of citizenship, and struck a line through the option to decline the grant.
Jones was not available for comment.
New Minister for Immigration Jonathan Coleman told NZPA that he had no comment on the matter, and was taking advice about it.
The minister, Rick Barker, had passed the matter to Jones to avoid a perceived conflict of interest.
Barker had been lobbied about the application by former Labour MP Dover Samuels, who considered Liu a friend. Former Minister of Ethnic Affairs Chris Carter and National MP Pansy Wong had also supported Liu’s application for citizenship.
Liu owned a Chinese restaurant in Auckland, and exported seafood through a joint venture with Talleys, Sealord and Sanford called Life Fish, Wong said.
Liu had lived in New Zealand since December 2001, and applied for citizenship in 2005. He has given both Labour and National parties unsolicited donations of $5000.
He claimed he was “stateless” because his Chinese passport and other identity documents had been seized after an Immigration New Zealand search warrant was executed.
The immigration department is investigating his identity. If the investigation resulted in a prosecution, Liu’s residency could be revoked and his citizenship lost.
Liu was given the opportunity to explain about being wanted for arrest in China, and was given advice on how to resolve the matter by contacting Chinese authorities or going through the Chinese court system.
He told officials there was a reasonable explanation for the difference between his identity as Yang Liu and the identity of Yong Ming Yan, who Chinese authorities considered him to be.
That explanation was not included in the documents.
Liu rejected the allegations, and said he believed he was of good character and was working to develop trade and good relations between New Zealand and China.
However, he had not provided any evidence.
“The Department is not in a position to know with any degree of certainty whether Mr Liu has committed offences in China as the issues have not been determined by the Chinese courts,” Secretary for Internal Affairs Geoff May wrote to the minister in mid-July.
“What is known is that Mr Liu remains wanted and subject to arrest in China, is unwilling to resolve the Interpol red notice matter … is under active investigation by Immigration New Zealand and has allegedly obtained and used false identity documents.”