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Arrested China exec said to be buyer of Sentosa villa

S$23.8m deal believed to have been aborted; caveat on property withdrawn in February

BT_20160426_KRMIN26AB_2244912.jpg
Zhang Min was president of Ezubao, a ponzi scheme that cheated 900,000 investors of 50b yuan.
BT_20160426_KRMIN26AB_2244912.jpg
Zhang Min was president of Ezubao, a ponzi scheme that cheated 900,000 investors of 50b yuan.

Singapore

ZHANG Min, the Chinese businesswoman involved in the Ezubao ponzi scandal, is believed to have been the buyer of a S$23.8 million bungalow along Lakeshore View in Sentosa Cove, the purchase of which has not been completed.

Sources as well as documents viewed by The Business Times suggest that the deal, which had been entered into last October, did not go through.

Zhang is understood to have been uncontactable when the completion date for the property's purchase fell due earlier this year. Shortly thereafter news broke that a person bearing the same name had been arrested in the Ezubao scandal in China.

Zhang had been granted an option for the bungalow's purchase in October last year; she exercised the option later in the same month and lodged a caveat on the property in November.

In early February this year, she withdrew the caveat. This was shortly after news broke of her arrest in China.

Market watchers reckon that Zhang would have paid a 5 per cent deposit of the purchase price, that is, S$1.19 million - which would have been forfeited when she did not complete the transaction.

The bungalow in question, which fronts the Serapong Golf Course and overlooks the sea, is now back on the market. It is owned by three siblings from a Hong Kong family, two of whom are British citizens and the third, a Singapore citizen.

The S$23.8 million price it was to have been sold for, translates to S$2,775 per square foot (psf) on the land area of 8,576 sq ft. The property is on a site with a balance lease term of 89 years at the time that the deal was entered into last October.

Ezubao was one of China's biggest Internet peer-to-peer (P2P) lenders. Launched in July 2004, the platform had collected over 50 billion yuan (S$10.8 billion) from an estimated 900,000 investors.

In late January this year, the official news agency Xinhua reported executives at Ezubao's parent company, Yucheng Group, as saying that it was a "complete Ponzi scheme" that used monies raised from investors to support a lavish lifestyle. Among the gifts that Yucheng chairman Ding Ning gave to Zhang, who was its president, were a S$20 million Singapore villa, a US$1.8 million (S$2.5 million) pink diamond ring, luxury limousines and watches and more than US$83 million in cash, Xinhua had reported.

The company is reported to have fabricated most of the projects on its website and paid old debts with money from new investors.

When Ezubao's fraud was uncovered late last year, executives buried 80 bags of documents in a six-metre hole on the outskirts of Hefei in Anhui province, where the company originated from.

Back to Lakeshore View on Sentosa Cove, interestingly, just six houses from the bungalow in question, another property was bought in 2013 for S$26 million or S$2,922 psf by Zhu Xingliang, whom The Edge has identified as the founder of Shenzhen-listed interior design and construction firm Suzhou Gold Mantis Construction Decoration Co. Ltd. In January 2014, he was reported to have been arrested. He was implicated in the investigation of Nanjing mayor Ji Jianye, who was removed from office in a graft probe in October 2013.

News of the more recent, S$23.8 million or S$2,775 psf transaction along Lakeshore View in Q4 last year, had boosted sentiment, given its relatively high psf price despite the general lack of transactions in the waterfront housing district.