British Columbia

Chinese bank claims fugitive bought luxury B.C. real estate

A major Chinese bank has obtained a court order in B.C. freezing the assets of a businessman accused of fleeing China and buying four luxury Lower Mainland homes after defaulting on a $10 million line of credit.

B.C. Supreme Court order freezes Shibiao Yan's assets while bank tries to get back $10 million loan

This $3.5 million home in Surrey B.C. is one of four Lower Mainland homes a Chinese bank claims are owned by a fugitive who defaulted on a $10 million loan. (Homelife Benchmark Realty Corp.)

A major Chinese bank has obtained a court order in B.C. freezing the assets of a businessman accused of fleeing China and buying "luxury" Lower Mainland homes after defaulting on a $10 million loan.

In an application brought before a B.C. Supreme Court judge last week, lawyers for China CITIC Bank claim Shibiao Yan and his wife bought more than $8 million worth of properties in Surrey and Vancouver over a three-month period beginning in June 2014.

'Global significance for China'

The court documents claim Yan, who was president of the Tanyuan Wood Company in Shijiazhuang, China, withdrew RMB 50 million from a line of credit he obtained on behalf of his company.

The bank claims the 56-year-old provided a personal guarantee for the money.

The loan came due last summer. But the bank claims Yan and his family had already fled to the Vancouver area.

Yan could not be reached for comment. He was not represented at the ex parte hearing and none of the allegations against him have been proven in court. 

The lawyer who represents the bank, Christine Duhaime, would not comment on the proceedings, but tweeted that the case was of "global significance for China".

The court case comes amid ongoing speculation about the role of offshore money and cash from wealthy Chinese investors in particular, in driving the out-of-control Lower Mainland real estate market.

Last year, Canada's anti-money laundering watchdog FINTRAC claimed to have stepped up enforcement activities in Vancouver's real estate market. A report prepared for the agency suggested the real estate sector was at "significant risk" for money laundering.

At the time, a representative of a company that works with foreign governments and banks to recover funds told CBC that he had been hired by a number of Chinese banks to track down money in B.C.

Yan is not accused of any criminal wrongdoing.

Houses in Surrey, Vancouver

Last week, Justice Gregory Bowden issued a temporary Mareva injunction against Yan, freezing his assets as the bank tries to make good on an arbitration ruling it claims to have obtained in March, ordering Yan to pay RMB 50 million plus RMB 2 million interest.

That amount works out to a little more than $10 million Cdn.

According to the court documents, Yan incorporated a company in B.C. called TYMY Investments in March 2014, and his 36-year-old wife paid $2.5 million for a house in Vancouver a month later.

The bank claims Yan applied for the loan in June 2014, but did not reveal that he had a residence or any interests outside of China. He was allegedly given a line of credit in June 2014 and withdrew the entire amount within days.

The documents claim Yan bought three homes in Surrey in the next three months, one worth $1 million, one worth $3.1 million and one worth $2.3 million.

An affidavit sworn by the bank's vice-president says the loan became due in June 2015, but Yan could not be found; he is now believed to be living in British Columbia with his wife and daughter.

As part of the court proceedings, the bank filed pictures of three homes in Surrey allegedly bought in Yan's name, and one bought in the name of his 36-year-old wife.

One of the affidavits says a London-based investigation firm provided the bank with documents it retrieved from "the periphery" of the Vancouver home including a destroyed MasterCard in Yan's name, several torn banking letters and an undated note in Mandarin with characters identical to those in the loan agreement.