British Columbia

Wang vs Wang: B.C.'s wild real estate market in a nutshell

Could Wang v Wang be the ultimate B.C. real estate story? A deal sealed with thousands of dollars imported from China by tourists, a lawsuit so tangled even a judge said it made no sense, and land allegedly leased to both the brother of Canada's most notorious serial killer and a medical marijuana grow operation.

Strangers importing money from China, a notorious neighbourhood and arguments to confuse a judge

According to court documents filed in Wang vs Wang, nine people brought $50,000 each into Canada in order to fund the purchase of a home at the centre of a legal battle. ((Reuters))

Could Wang vs Wang be the ultimate B.C. real estate story?

A deal sealed with thousands of dollars imported from China by tourists, a lawsuit so tangled even a judge said it made no sense, and land allegedly leased to both the brother of Canada's most notorious serial killer and a medical marijuana grow operation.

And to top it all off — a piece of property that has appreciated nearly a million dollars in six years by just existing.

'Occurrences and events that made no sense'

In trying to tackle the B.C. Supreme Court battle, Madam Justice Laura Gerow admitted frustration.

"I did not find any of the witnesses who testified in this case credible," she wrote.

"In my opinion, no one told the truth about their relationship and the circumstances surrounding the purchase of the property. They all testified to occurrences and events that made no sense."

The purchase of this Port Coquitlam property is at the heart of one of the most confusing real estate battles to hit B.C. Supreme Court in some time. (Google)

At the heart of the legal fight between Hong Jie — Anita — Wang and Yong Li  — William — Wang is a two-hectare property in Port Coquitlam the pair decided to purchase together as an investment in 2011.

The Wangs are not related.

Anita Wang sued William Wang for fraud and breach of contract. The dispute centred around the actual purchase price and subsequent financing.

A village of nine million?

If the circumstances are confusing, the details contained within the judgment and associated filings are illuminating. 

Anita Wang is a businesswoman living in Shandong, China. William Wang has lived in B.C. since 2001.

The pair met in 2011 when William was on a B.C. trade delegation to China.

Anita Wang claimed she trusted William Wang implicitly because he came from her home village. Gerow found that hard to believe, given that the "village" in question has nine million residents.

The judge pointed out that the Chinese 'village' where both parties came from had a population of nine million. (Reuters)

According to the judgment, Anita Wang claimed she had "trouble" transferring her share of the funds needed for the deal to go ahead.

The ruling said her $750,000 contribution ultimately came through "a series of transfers through nine individuals who brought in $50,000 each for tourist purposes, and from one account in the United Kingdom belonging to an unrelated company. Both parties testified they did not know any of the individuals who brought $50,000 into Canada."

Gerow said it was reasonable to infer that "money being transferred through nine individuals for tourist reasons is not a legal manner to transfer money for investment purposes."

A notorious neighbourhood

As part of her original notice of civil claim, Anita Wang alleged William Wang was unjustly enriching himself by renting out the property.

In his response, William Wang makes a surprising claim. From the time of purchase until December 2013, the land "was leased out to a farmer, Dave Pickton, as pasture land for $50 a year."

The two hectares of land at the heart of the battle sit a stone's throw from the infamous Port Coquitlam property where serial killer Robert William Pickton lived in a run-down trailer and where police found the remains or DNA of 33 women. His brother, David Pickton, used to live on the other side of the road.

The property in question sits in a neighbourhood notorious for the crimes of former resident Robert Pickton. According to court documents, his brother Dave Pickton leased the land. (CBC)

Robert Pickton was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison. David Pickton has denied any knowledge of the crimes.

According to the court documents, a stable on the land was also converted into a shed and leased out to a tenant as a medical marijuana grow operation from April 2013 to April 2014.

But William Wang claimed fire and flood wiped out the gas and power supplies and caused damage rendering the house inappropriate for rental.

Silver lining courtesy of B.C. assessment

Justice Gerow didn`t delve into the home's checkered history, except to find that William Wang had failed to account for rent he received for the property.

Since he paid for all costs associated with the land, including tax, the judge ordered an accounting between both sides to equalize the purchase price and the expenses.

Anita Wang had claimed she was told the house cost $1.5 million when it was actually bought for $1.27 million. But Gerow rejected that argument. She also had some strong words for both sides.

"In this case there has been deliberate falsehood and exaggeration on the part of all of the witnesses," the judge wrote. "In these circumstances, the fact finding becomes very difficult, if not impossible."

Neither Wang walks away entirely empty handed: the property they bought as an investment for $1.27 million in 2011 was assessed at $2.15 million last week.