A Sunshine Coast mansion owner must refund two plaintiffs and a co-defendant after what a B.C. Supreme Court judge called a “real estate investment gone awry.”
Justice David Crerar ruled June 24 that Xuanwen Yang remains the sole owner of a property near Mt. Elphinstone, but he must pay back $631,436.83 plus 10% interest to Shiyou Wang and Chong Feng Wu.
Yang must also let co-defendant Weiguo Jin out of the mortgage, refund him the same amount as Wang and Wu, plus interest, an additional $50,000 toward mortgage payments and USD$180,000 that he paid for a mineral water development at Yang’s behest.
“Mr. Yang misled both Mr. Jin and the plaintiffs, and potential investors and customers, throughout the sorry saga,” Crerar ruled.
At issue is a 12-bedroom mansion on 53 acres near the Langdale BC Ferries terminal, with a Mandarin name that translates as “North American Royal Aristocratic Castle.”
Yang lives on the property and organized the investment project, which foresaw development on the property and neighbouring lands that he bought from the YMCA, operator of Camp Elphinstone. The Facebook page includes a photo of Yang and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shot at the controversial 2016 private fundraiser at one of the two Shaughnessy mansions of real estate investor Miaofei Pan.
Yang asked real estate agent Jason Yi in 2014 to look for properties. In early 2015, Yi told him of the one on 1393 Port Mellon Highway. Yang approached potential investors. On March 10 of that year, he signed the Sunshine Coast Resort Housing contract with Wang, Jin and Li Dejian that said they would each have 25% interest in the expected $7.995 million purchase. Jin and Wang got a $5 million HSBC mortgage in June, 10 days before the completion of the nearly $6.8 million deal.
So began several years of disputes over the joint venture and oral and written agreements.
The court heard that the group met to discuss business at the Kerrisdale McDonald’s restaurant at the end of August 2015 and mid-March 2016. Yang walked out of the second meeting and declared the property was solely his own.
Yang anticipated the property would be developed. Through his Corporation Chinese Cooperation Community of North America Ltd., he bought eight neighbouring properties from the YMCA for $4.9 million in a deal that closed in September 2016. His first offer, for $4.55 million in June 2015, was rejected.
“He did not tell Mr. Jin or Mr. Wang about his intention or attempt to obtain those neighbouring properties,” Crerar wrote. “At trial he confirmed that his intention was at that time, as realized in September 2016, to obtain those properties for himself rather than for the joint venture participants.”
In June 2015, Yang incorporated another company, North American Sunshine Tourism Co., and gave Jin a memo listing a multitude of business ventures that would require up to 16 government approvals, including dividing the land to build five “super large houses,” producing mineral water for export to China, processing sawdust, obtaining casino licences and rental of “Indian land,” purchase of yachts and buses and the manufacture and assembly of helicopters and yachts.
The 10-day trial in May happened under challenging circumstances, according to the judge. Even with COVID-19 protocols, there were four parties, two interpreters and one lawyer — neither the plaintiffs nor Yang were represented.
All parties had little or no English skill. They required a roster of seven Mandarin interpreters, “who appropriately served the court as much as the parties, and who must have been even more weary than the judge after every day,” according to Crerar.
The biggest challenge?
“Not one of the parties — any of the four participants in the project — was a reliable or credible witness,” Crerar wrote. “All were evasive, despite repeated instructions and admonitions; each repeatedly provided argumentative assertions rather than answers. Their positions, actions, and testimony were inconsistent.”
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