A judge in Vancouver says a family law case can proceed in British Columbia Supreme Court between a rich landowner from China and his estranged wife, who is a former senior official in the Chinese Communist Party.
Justice Margot Fleming ruled on May 26 that she was not concerned that Bin Bin Tang was “forum shopping” in her dispute with Wei Chang. Tang had made an urgent application for a court hearing during the coronavirus pandemic, claiming urgent need for spousal support. Cheng wanted the case stayed.
Law Courts Vancouver (Joe Mabel)
“I do not regard proceeding in this forum as contrary to the fair and efficient working of the Canadian legal system as a whole,” Fleming ruled
“Having failed to demonstrate China provides an alternative forum, it is simply not possible for Mr. Cheng to establish that China is in a better position to dispose of the litigation fairly and more efficiently.”
Fleming’s decision said the parties were married in December 1991 in China and separated in October 2015. They have one son born in June 1994.
Tang claimed they accumulated assets worth $100 million while married, but Cheng estimated it to be in the range of $40 million to $48 million. Almost all of the assets are in China, except accounts in Hong Kong and Canada and a house worth nearly $4 million on the Andover Place cul-de-sac in West Vancouver’s posh British Properties.
In her affidavit, Tang said she worked in a senior position in China’s Ministry of Supervision, in the Communist Party’s powerful Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, which is intended to stop graft inside the party.
In his sworn statement, Cheng described Tang’s position as Deputy Chief of the Chinese Communist Party.
In 2007, Tang and their son immigrated to Canada where he completed high school. Tang became a Canadian citizen.
CCP organization chart. (China.org)
The estranged couple could not agree where Tang lived from 2012 to 2014. Cheng claimed Tang returned to China in 2012 after her son went to study in New York. But Tang maintained that since 2014, she had been living at the house on Andover Place after overseeing its construction.
Cheng claimed that he shared a residence with Tang in Nantong City, China when they separated. Since then, she had been living in the same complex with her family.
According to Cheng, based on information from their son, Tang had only visited Vancouver for one or two months a year since their separation.
Tang’s most recent affidavit claimed she has lived regularly in West Vancouver since 2012, but is stranded in China for the time being and does not have the resources to live in West Vancouver unless she can obtain financial relief from Cheng.
The parties battled in court in China since 2016. Tang’s first of two divorce filings was dismissed because of the prospect of reconciliation. She claimed she discovered Cheng having an affair with another woman, with whom he fathered two children, and used family assets to provide them a luxurious lifestyle.
The parties went to trial in China over four days in 2017 and 2019. In November last year, Tang filed the family claim lawsuit in B.C. and was granted a restraining order. The Chinese court rendered its judgment on Dec. 25, 2019, but Tang claimed it would cost too much to translate all 33 pages.
Ambleside in West Vancouver (Mackin)
The divorce was granted and Tang awarded 70% of the disclosed real estate properties and bank accounts, “based on a finding Mr. Cheng had fraudulently transferred away or dissipated at least $15.5 million and committed adultery,” Fleming wrote.
“Mr. Cheng also deposes that the Chinese court reapportioned the Chinese family property largely in favour of Ms. Tang. He states she received approximately $42 million whereas he received less than $1 million, estimating her share at approximately 97% of the remaining net assets,” said Fleming’s judgment.
Tang was hospitalized and underwent back surgery in April and claims to suffer several conditions that cause daily pain. The 52-year-old also claimed to be too old to work in China, which mandates retirement for women from some jobs beginning at age 50.
Tang also claimed to have been out of the workforce for three decades, despite giving evidence that she had worked until 2007.
The expert testimony phase of the Cullen Commission inquiry into money laundering in British Columbia continued last week. Hear from two top criminology professors who weighed-in on a key anti-money laundering measure.
Transparency International has campaigned for a beneficial ownership registry in a bid to stop criminals from hiding who owns what. The B.C. NDP government is going to roll-out a beneficial ownership registry of real estate, through the Land Title and Survey Authority. But it wants to charge a $5 fee per search.
Professors Michael Levi (left) and Peter Reuter at the Cullen Commission.
“If we’re charging people for it, it’s sort of counterproductive,” said Prof. Peter Reuter of the University of Maryland.
Said Prof. Michael Levi of Cardiff University: “A public registry that is online and available to the public shouldn’t have any automatically any extra costs attached to it, in which case the argument for charging is weak. There is not much point in having a public register if it’s so expensive that people can’t use it.”
Hear the head of the RCMP’s criminal intelligence service, who told the inquiry that there are 1,850 known organized crime groups in Canada, 680 of which operate in B.C.
Chief Supt. Robert Gilchrist told the inquiry that B.C. and Ontario have high level networks of professional money launderers using underground banks, trade based money laundering, casinos and real estate to launder hundreds of millions of dollars gained through proceeds of crime.
RCMP’s Robert Gilchrist (Cullen Commission)
Meanwhile, a special committee pondering improvements to B.C.’s private sector access and privacy law, the Public Information Protection Act, heard from the head of the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association that the law is more than a decade out of date and “a tweak isn’t going to fix this.”
Hear from Jason Woywada, who said citizens expect increased privacy protection and businesses are at risk without adequate laws.
Plus commentary and Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest headlines.
A professional motorcycle racer was sent to perform a stunt for a Hollywood North blockbuster without a helmet and means to disable the bike she rode, according to a report from the British Columbia coroners service.
Sequana Joi Cooke Harris, a professional motorcycle racer better known as Joi Harris, died Aug. 14, 2017 when she was ejected from a Ducati Hyperstrada 939 motorcycle and collided with a window at Shaw Tower during a scene for the Ryan Reynolds sequel.
The Deadpool 2 fatal crash scene on Aug. 14 , 2017 (reader photo)
The B.C. Coroners Service finally released the investigation report about the 40-year-old New Yorker’s death on June 10, declaring she died by accident from a blunt force traumatic head injury.
Coroner Kimberly Isbister found no alcohol, illicit drugs or prescribed medication in Harris’s system and WorkSafeBC found the motorcycle free of defects and no type of mechanical malfunction was found. But Harris was not wearing a kill switch lanyard and supervising staff failed to ensure she had it.
“She did not have experience working with a motorcycle on a closed set with obstacles and/or stairs, working as a stunt person or stunt double,” Isbister’s report said.
WorkSafeBC fined TCF Vancouver Productions Ltd. $289,562.63 in early May for lack of appropriate risk management, lack of new worker orientation, inadequate workplace setup and planning, lack of helmet and failure to ensure health and safety of workers. TCF is a subsidiary of 20th Century Fox, now Disney-owned.
The coroner’s report said Harris rehearsed approximately seven times, beginning at 8 a.m., progressing from quarter-speed to half-speed to full-speed of 20 km-h to 25 km-h.
At 8:14 a.m., Harris exited the Vancouver Convention Centre doors and turned left to approach a set of stairs covered with sheets of wood. Video footage and witness accounts indicate Harris lost control as she transitioned onto the first ramp and accelerated, rather than coming to a controlled, planned stop.
“The motorcycle continued over a second transition ramp, at which time the motorcycle became airborne. Ms. Cooke Harris continued to hold onto the handle bars; however, her feet were completely off the foot pegs,” the report said. “The motorcycle continued in a forward direction, entered onto the roadway of Canada Place and struck the raised cement median. Ms. Cooke Harris was ejected from the motorcycle, and she struck a window at the base of Shaw Tower. When the incident happened, Ms. Cooke Harris was not wearing safety headgear.”
Vancouver Police officers on routine set duty called Emergency Health Services, but paramedics were unable to revive Harris and she was declared dead at 8:25 a.m.
WorkSafeBC found that Harris met two days earlier, on Aug. 12, 2017, with a stunt coordinator at Mammoth Studios to assess her motorcycle riding abilities. Harris was experienced at racing certain motorcycles on open race tracks at a high rate of speed and performing high-speed braking. But she was a movie stunt rookie and told a picture car technician that she had never ridden a Ducati.
She trained on-site at the convention centre Aug. 13, 2017 with a stunt coordinator and two different stunt persons. The session focused on practicing on the escalator and by riding a dirt bike down the stairs to the exterior transition ramp. The stunt coordinator determined after observing Harris on the dirt bike that she was able to perform.
Bob Mackin (Updated June 9), with files from Ina Mitchell and Amy Wang translation
A Conservative MP ignored public health officials during a photo op in Richmond on the same day the Prime Minister was criticized for attending a Black Lives Matter protest on Parliament Hill.
Alice Wong (Richmond Centre) visited the offices of the Quanzhou Friendship Society of Canada and North America Chinese Alliance of Commerce Association on June 5. The pro-Beijing groups donated 50,000 masks to the VGH and UBC Hospital Foundation, according to Phoenix TV.
Conservative MP Alice Wong, standing behind mini flags, at the Quanzhou Friendship Society in Richmond on June 5. (Phoenix TV)
The TV crew captured images of Wong and an executive from the foundation with a group in a boardroom. While some shots show masks were worn, other shots show attendees standing shoulder to shoulder without masks.
WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW.
Wong, the opposition critic for seniors, did not respond for comment. Her office manager, Sacha Peter, claimed Wong wore a mask for the majority of the event. The Phoenix TV report shows that Wong did wear a mask during an interview, but did not when she presented a certificate.
“At the last part of the meeting, upon media request, participants removed their masks for the photo opportunity,” Peter wrote by email.
The foundation raises money for two hospitals in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, which recommends avoiding crowded, non-essential gatherings and keeping at least two metres apart from others. Authorities have also recommended the use of non-medical masks when physical distancing is not feasible.
Foundation vice-president Candice Tsang did not respond. Elizabeth Moffat, associate director of marketing and communications, said Tsang was not available for an interview. Moffat said masks were removed upon request by a photographer. She did not explain why the foundation agreed to the event in an office boardroom instead of a spacious venue outdoors.
“There was a brief, regrettable lapse in judgement, and we are sending all staff members reminders to follow the latest social distancing guidelines from the Province in order to keep themselves and others safe,” Moffat said by email.
Justin Trudeau at a Parliament Hill protest on June 5. (CTV/CNN)
On June 8, Conservative opposition leader Andrew Scheer criticized Trudeau for ignoring health officials.
“I can understand why people are upset and confused after months of being told that they need to stay home, after months of being told that they need to listen to the advice of public health officials,” Scheer told reporters in Ottawa. “After all the hardship that people have gone through, to see the prime minister completely ignore those types of health guidelines.”
Trudeau made world news during last fall’s federal election after photos emerged of him in blackface during his career as a schoolteacher. He justified his cameo at the June 5 anti-racism protest by his wearing of a mask and trying to follow social distancing measures while surrounded by RCMP bodyguards. Thousands protested despite Ontario health officials urging citizens to restrict gatherings to five people or less.
Scheer’s office did not respond to theBreaker.news.
Those who joined Wong at the photo op included BC Liberal MLA John Yap and Sing Yim Leo, co-founder of Royal Pacific Realty and a donor of masks to St. Paul’s Hospital in April.
Two real estate agents from Royal Pacific formed a society last month that is aimed at suing Global News and reporter Sam Cooper for an April 30 story about efforts by pro-Beijing business and cultural groups to export bulk PPE to China earlier this year, leaving Canadian hospitals low on supplies.
theBreaker.news revealed on June 1 that a supporter of the Maple Leafs Anti-Racism Actions Association promoted the lawsuit fundraising on the WeChat group of Joyce Murray, the Minister of Digital Government.
A new report on the Chinese government’s foreign meddling campaign by an Australian think tank mentioned the bulk medical supply export and import efforts by groups in seven countries affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department. UFWD is a Soviet-inspired strategy that President Xi Jinping described in 2015 as his “important magic weapon for strengthening the party’s ruling position.”
Real estate agent Sing Yim Leo, third from right, among those flouting public health warnings on June 5. (Phoenix TV)
“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has also highlighted overseas United Front networks. In Australia, Canada, the U.K., the U.S., Argentina, Japan and the Czech Republic, groups mobilized to gather increasingly scarce medical supplies from around the world and send them to China,” wrote Alex Joske of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. “Those efforts appear linked to directives from the All-China Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese, a united front agency. The party’s Central Committee has described the federation as ‘a bridge and a bond for the party and government to connect with overseas Chinese compatriots’. After the virus spread globally, United Front groups began working with the CCP to donate supplies to the rest of the world and promote the party’s narratives about the pandemic.”
Joske’s report is called The Party Speaks For You: Foreign Interference and the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front System and describes United Front as a network of party and state agencies responsible for influencing groups outside the party.
“The United Front system’s reach beyond the borders of the People’s Republic of China—such as into foreign political parties, diaspora communities and multinational corporations—is an exportation of the CCP’s political system,” the report said.“This undermines social cohesion, exacerbates racial tension, influences politics, harms media integrity, facilitates espionage, and increases unsupervised technology transfer.”
A special edition paying tribute to the late Dermod Travis.
The face and voice of IntegrityBC died June 1, two days shy of his 60th birthday.
Hear Travis in his own words, through highlights of his four appearances on theBreaker.news Podcast since November 2017.
Dermod Travis (Voice of B.C./Shaw)
Also, hear from the founder of IntegrityBC and a former member of B.C.’s Legislative press gallery.
“Dermod focused upon the environment, human rights, integrity in government. His lasting legacy in British Columbia is the electoral finance reform,” said Wayne Crookes, founder of IntegrityBC.
“Dermod meant accountability for British Columbia,” said Sean Holman, professor of journalism at Mount Royal University in Calgary. “On a lot of issues he was the primary person speaking out, especially when it came to issues of democratic accountability and corruption and wrongdoing within the public sector. He was often times the sole person that could be counted on to raise those issues.”
Also on this edition, hear from the zoologist who heads the Greater Vancouver Zoo. theBreaker.news toured the Aldergrove attraction when it reopened June 1 and heard Serge Lussier’s vision for a $20 million, five-year overhaul. Listen to Lussier explain the “zoo of the future.”
Plus commentary and Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest headlines.
The British Columbia immigration scheme aimed at attracting skilled workers and entrepreneurs is at risk of fraud and corruption.
The Office of the Auditor General said in a June 2-released report that there are gaps in safeguards against misrepresentation and fraud in the provincial nominee program, which is popular among immigrants from the People’s Republic of China. The program admitted 32,000 workers, spouses and dependents from 2015 to 2018.
Istuary’s Ethan Sun (right) and Justin Trudeau.
The report said the Jobs, Economic Development and Competitiveness ministry has not done a comprehensive risk assessment to proactively identify and assess risks, lacks a clear fraud reporting mechanism for the public and does not flag high-risk applications.
“The ministry did not adequately assess and mitigate the risks of fraud and corruption to protect the integrity of the PNP,” the report said. “The ministry had safeguards against fraud, but it needs to ensure that it has the right safeguards and implements them as intended.”
The report did not name names of companies or fraudsters, but said staff identified cases of misrepresentation and fraud. Applicants were found to have fudged their qualifications or income to match job requirements or get a higher score in the registration system and providing false documents. Employers had lied about advertising a job to Canadians first before recruiting internationally. Immigration agents had paid an employer to create a fake job.
“In one case we reviewed, the employer stated that the applicant was working as an administrative assistant,” the report said. “PNP staff reviewed all documentation and thought it appeared to be bona fide. However, when staff followed up with the workplace, they found that the applicant was not working as an administrative assistant. In the applicant’s actual role, they wouldn’t have qualified for nomination. The ministry sent the employer a letter stating that no further applications would be accepted from the company for two years. The applicant was also refused on the grounds of misrepresentation and informed that the program would not accept another application from them for two years.”
The report said the ministry does not have regular and timely access to compliance investigations by federal immigration authorities, the Law Society or the Employment Standards Branch.
“Such information would allow the ministry to better understand fraud trends and disciplinary actions. It could also help identify high-risk applications to support staff in choosing the appropriate level and type of due diligence.”
Trophy given to BC Liberal $5,000 donor Ethan Sun in 2016 (Mackin)
Internally, there were gaps found in monitoring staff activity in the case management system and staff were unaware of how they could blow the whistle on wrongdoing. The new Public Interest Disclosure Act, effective last December, is aimed at protecting whistleblowers in government.
From the start of 2007 to the end of the first quarter of 2015, 527 of the 937 entrepreneur immigration applications approved at work permit stage were from Chinese citizens. South Korea (78) and Iran (72) were the next most-popular source countries.
In 2016-2017, 106 of 152 registrants were from China. Sixty-eight of the 152 invested between $1 million and $8 million.
One of the most-notorious companies in B.C. to have been involved in the program was Istuary Innovation Group, the collapsed tech startup from China. Yi An “Ethan” Sunwas lured by HQ Vancouver (whose head was future Trudeau-appointed senator Yuen Pau Woo) and given tax credits through the controversial Advantage BC scheme. A lawsuit alleges that Sun fled to China, Istuary investors lost $18 million and that the company was really a front for immigration fraud.
In November 2016, then-Premier Christy Clark recognized Istuary with a trophy at a fundraising dinner in the River Rock Casino Resort’s show theatre.
The Elections BC database shows a $5,000 Sun donation to the BC Liberals, dated Nov. 30, 2016. He also donated $1,756 in 2015 and 2017.
Provincial government operations in British Columbia may not be back to normal until December.
A May 21 memo in the Health Ministry, seen by theBreaker.news, mentioned that the B.C. Public Service has started to consider ways to transition back to day-to-day business and has asked each division to make return-to-office plans.
B.C. Health ADM Ian Rongve
Assistant Deputy Health Minister Ian Rongve ordered all executive directors to have updated telework agreements signed-off by May 29 with a review date of Nov. 30.
“This will not only ensure that all staff have the necessary coverage through WorkSafeBC, but also allow us to plan for what in-office staffing may look like over the next six months,” said Rongve’s memo. “To be clear, if you are wishing to continue working from home on a full-time or part-time basis, your request will be accommodated.”
Meanwhile, the day after provincial coronavirus testing capacity increased to nearly 7,800 samples a day, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gave a prepared statement that warned about the risks of false positives and false negatives.
“It’s very important to understand that testing, however, right now can be unreliable particularly for people who don’t have symptoms or have very mild symptoms that they may not recognize,” Henry said during her June 2 news conference in Victoria. “Someone who is negative one day who has an exposure may actually be positive the next. The tests are not that great at picking this up early on. That’s why testing alone does not insulate a business from needing to have a plan.”
Dr. Bonnie Henry (left) and Health Minister Adrian Dix (Mackin)
Henry did not go into detail about testing statistics.
theBreaker.news has confirmed that while capacity has increased by 1,200-a-day since May 19, B.C.-wide testing activity has actually declined. There were 1,436 tests conducted May 31 and 1,197 on June 1.
B.C. initially restricted tests to healthcare workers, seniors care home residents and patients at hospital emergency wards, which prompted Royal Columbian Hospital’s Dr. Sean Wormsbecker to blow the whistle.
Health Minister Adrian Dix errantly told Question Period on March 23 that there were 3,500 tests a day on March 21 and 22. The actual numbers were 1,963 and 2,036, respectively.
B.C. finally opened up testing to anyone with a doctor’s referral just before Easter weekend. Since the policy change, testing peaked at 2,783 on May 6.
A total 147,757 tests for coronavirus had been conducted through June 1. Henry’s June 2 report said 2,601 people had tested positive, with 207 cases still active.
Testing sites with the most daily capacity are at St. Paul’s Hospital (2,228), B.C. Centre for Disease Control (2,000), Fraser Health (1,480), LifeLabs (600) and Island Health (460). There is also capacity for 396-a-day in Interior Health, 300 at Vancouver General Hospital and 264 at B.C. Children’s Hospital.
The province’s medical supplies procurement department in the Provincial Health Services Agency has bought a COVID Analyzer for $2 million from Roche Diagnostics of Laval, Que.
Dermod Travis was the most-vital voice in British Columbia in the post-Olympic era.
Dermod Travis (Voice of B.C./Shaw)
When the International Olympic Committee and the BC Liberal Party brought the Games of the Great Recession to town in 2010, B.C. changed for the worse. It became a province where the government put casino construction ahead of hospital construction. Politicians were for sale. Money laundering ran rampant. Homelessness increased. Transparency and accountability came under attack.
Dermod was the face and voice of the 2011-founded IntegrityBC, laser-focused on ending corruption in B.C. and putting citizens first. His legacy is the 2017 ban on corporate and union political donations, but he was not resting on any laurels. He still had more to do and he lived and breathed the credo “Take Back B.C.”
British Columbia lost Dermod on June 1 due to liver and heart problems.
I will have more to say on the next edition of theBreaker.news Podcast.
“Severance is intended to tide you over, it’s not intended to act as a super-inflated bonus package, which seems to have been the practice with the change in government in 2017. When you have a situation where the severance policies for staffers are more generous than the severance policies for MLAs, the transition allowance, you have a serious problem.”
“The message that it’s sending is that of expressway tickets to six-figure salaries in private industries. To work in a minister’s office and do good service to a minister for a couple of weeks, months or years and then hit the jackpot.”
The Cullen Commission on money laundering in British Columbia is back in session, with a twist.
Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Commissioner Austin Cullen is hearing expert testimony in webinar form until mid-June.
Simon Lord (lower right) appeared on the Cullen Commission on May 28. (Cullen Commission)
One of the first witnesses was Simon Lord of the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency. Lord discussed his research on underground banking, gambling, surrogate shopping [aka “daigou”] and the abuse of Chinese student bank accounts via the state-censored WeChat social media platform.
“Those WeChat groups are infiltrated by representatives of the money launderer in the U.K. and the Chinese students are offered the opportunity to make a little bit of extra money,” Lord said. “What they say is you’re doing money remittance on behalf of Chinese citizens in the U.K. who are un-banked and want to send their money back to China.”
Peter Humphrey survived two years of torture in a Shanghai jail.
Hear clips of Lord’s testimony to the Cullen Commission on this edition of theBreaker.news Podcast.
Also, the World Health Organization is reviewing the 2016 appointment of a Chinese propaganda agency’s anchor as a goodwill ambassador. Peter Humphrey, a former journalist who was jailed more than two years in China, says James Chau should never have been given the honour.
Chau packaged and presented a deceptive report on Humphrey’s forced, false confession that was broadcast on the English language service of state broadcaster CCTV to viewers in Canada, U.S. and U.K. It sparked Humphrey and Safeguard Defenders’ complaint to broadcast regulators, seeking cancellation of CCTV [China Central TV] and its English service CGTN [China Global TV Network]
James Chau with WHO’s Dr. Tedros (Twitter)
Chau is not the only controversial appointment by the arm of the United Nations. Peng Liyuan, the wife of Chinese president Xi Jinping, has held a similar honorary position with the WHO since 2011.
In an interview with host Bob Mackin, Humphrey said: “The wife of the sitting dictator of China to be in that position is an outrage and is a further illustration, a stark illustration, of China’s influence and control over the WHO.”
Plus commentary and Pacific Rim and Pacific Northwest headlines.