Jailed Tupa’i Jack Chen, a philanthropist?

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Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa

The Chinese businessman, Jack Chen, sounds like a pretty generous individual, and a good friend of Samoa too. 

That thought emerged upon hearing that Mr Chen had made a donation of NZ$250,000 (ST500,000), to the Samoa Rugby Union during the World Cup in 2011, according to Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi.

He said that besides Mr Chen’s donation to the rugby union, “he also did a lot of work for Samoa.”

For instance, he was apparently at the forefront of a regional project where “thousands of litres of noni juice from Samoa” would be shipped to the Chinese market. 

In 2012, a New Zealand-based company called Pure Pacifika, was formed. It had subsidiaries in the Cook Islands, Niue and Samoa, and it announced it would purchase the nonu from the islands to sell to China, where it would be blended with fruit juice and sold as a beverage. 

And yet it appears that Mr Chen – he has been given the matai title of Tupa’i – was also involved in a multi-million-tala resort to be built at Sasina, the village of the former Speaker of Parliament, La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao, who is now the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

And then the news from China came. 

It said that “Tupa’i Jack Chen had been jailed for fraud,” and all the plans he’d been working on here in Samoa all that time, started to shrivel as they’re fading slowly towards oblivion. 

Delivered by the South China Morning Post, it said that earlier this month, Tupa’i Jack Chen was jailed for seven years and nine months, for conspiring in an “evil” bid to defraud his company and the stock exchange. 

Sure, this story first appeared in Samoa, on 12 June 2016

Still, let’s read it one more time and be thoroughly educated.

It says: 

Also known as Chen Keen, Tupa’i concealed his connection with co-defendant May Wang, when he tried to talk the predecessor of his Natural Dairy (NZ) Holdings into buying 22 farms in New Zealand in 2009.

The mainlander – said to be a leading figure in the Chinese community in New Zealand after he moved there – was found guilty earlier by a High Court jury of two counts of conspiracy to defraud and one of laundering more than HK$85 million.

Wang, also known as May Hao, the story said, was jailed for eight years and three months, while a third defendant, Eric Yee, who managed the company’s accounts, was sentenced to five years. 

They were found guilty of the same conspiracy charge.

Sentencing Chen and Wang on Monday, Madam Justice Anthea Pang Po-kam slammed the pair for taking advantage of the company’s listed status and the city’s regulated stock market to raise funds for their criminal plot. 

Such a criminal act is one to be deterred, she said, adding that what the pair did had destroyed the public’s confidence in the local stock market.

The court previously heard that Chen concealed his business ties with Wang from the city’s stock exchange and shareholders of Natural Dairy (NZ) Holdings, formerly China Jin Hui Mining Corporation, when he attempted to acquire the farms from New Zealand company Crafarms Group, between May 7, 2009 and July 19, 2010.

The farms were purchased by Wang, a mainlander who migrated to New Zealand, for NZ$259 million (HK$1.4 billion) before being resold to China Jin Hui Mining Corporation at Chen’s suggestion for NZ$500 million. 

The pair also failed to inform the stock market watchdog and shareholders about the actual value of Crafarms, which was described as a “rubbish company” by one of the witnesses.

Despite the stock exchange’s attempt to seek clarification from the pair over their relationship, the judge noted, they maintained that they were not connected.

Pang called their failure to inform shareholders of the farms’ actual value a particularly evil act, adding that it deprived shareholders the chance to make an informed decision.

The judge refused to accept the pair’s mitigation that no actual loss had been incurred, as they put shareholders’ interest at risk. 

However she reduced Chen’s sentence by six months from the original eight years and three months, after learning that Chen had been a leading figure in the Chinese community since he moved to New Zealand. 

The court also took into account the contributions and donations Chen had made over the years to the mainland, New Zealand and Samoa.

Interestingly enough though, the last word in Madam Justice Anthea Pang Po-kam’s rather disturbing ruling, is “Samoa.” 

Poor Samoa!

Why is it that it is always finding itself being dragged in the mud because of some people’s ill-conceived, warped designs? 

And then as if the idea was to make it even more painful for everyone, Justice Po-kam’s reason for reducing Tupa’i’s sentence was that he had given contributions and donations to Samoa, and that means all of us.

Now is our prime minister listening? Is it really true that Tupa’i had donated NZ$250,000 (ST500,000) to the Samoa Rugby Union during the World Cup in 2011, as he has already told everyone?

No wonder Tupa’i has become the person he’s turned out to be, which is why he is now jailed for fraud! 

And then as if that is not stressful enough, here’s the newly appointed Minister of Agriculture, La’auli Leuatea Polataivao – he was the Speaker of House in the previous Parliament - saying he was pretty upset that Tupa’i was jailed for fraud.

So what does he think should have been  done with Tupa’i after he’d committed fraud in New Zealand? 

That Justice Po-kam should just let him free so that he’s allowed to flee to Samoa? 

As for that other multi-million-tala resort at Sasina – that’s La’auli’s village by the way – where investor Jessie James is said to be also involved, La’auli is uncommitted.

He said:  “We need to be practical with the world economic trends that affect investments such as the Sasina hotel project. 

“My duty is to explore opportunities.” 

What he meant he did not explain. However, referring to the land on which this project is built, La’auli showed caution.

 “Should it not eventuate,” he said, “the land remains with the village, and negotiations are still going forward for the project to start in the near future.”

As for Prime Minister Tuilaepa, he’s of the belief that Tupa’i Chen’s absence is not going to adversely affect the noni project.

He says: “Even though his noni programmes have not been accomplished, a lot of people have planted noni and they are now reaping the rewards with other companies making use of it.”

Still, Tuilaepa maintains that Tupa’i Chen had done a lot of Samoa  and now “I’m hoping that when he’s served his jail sentence, he would come back.” 

He adds: “Anyway, it does not take long to serve jail terms these days. We never know, he might come back and continue the good work he’s begun.”

Tupa’i Jack Chen. 

The Chinese citizen who donated NZ$250,000 (ST500,000) to the Samoa Rugby Union during the World Cup in 2011, and later he was jailed in Hong Kong for eight years and three months for fraud. 

A modern day philanthropist!

Is it really true?

© Samoa Observer 2016

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