Regular SkyCity VIP gambler William Yan denied any illegal
activity after the raid on his 35th-floor apartment in the
Metropolis tower. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Police have raided the luxury penthouse of a
multimillionaire businessman granted citizenship in
controversial circumstances and seized his assets because of
alleged involvement in money laundering.
William Yan - also previously known as Bill Liu, Yang Liu and
Yong Ming Yan - lives on the 35th floor of Auckland's
Metropolis tower. Residents saw detectives removing items
from his home on Thursday.
Millions of dollars worth of assets the police allege belong
to Mr Yan - although officially registered in other people's
names - have been seized, including the apartment, worth more
than $2 million, a Mercedes-Benz, and shares and bank
Mr Yan has spent millions of dollars as a high roller in the
SkyCity Casino VIP lounge.
Following the raid, Mr Yan, dressed casually in a black
tracksuit, met defence lawyer Simon Lance in the Metropolis
No criminal charges have been laid. Mr Lance would not
comment on what the police had taken. "However, Mr Yan does
deny any alleged money laundering or other illegal activity.
He has not been arrested."
The police would not answer specific questions, but released
a statement from Detective Senior Sergeant Craig Hamilton,
the officer in charge of the asset-recovery unit.
"Police have begun the process of restraining the assets of a
43-year-old Auckland businessman and his 38-year-old female
partner as part of an ongoing Criminal Proceeds Recovery
investigation," it read.
"This is a complex investigation which is focused on the
laundering of large amounts of money that police believe has
been accumulated through illegal activity.
"Police are working hard to ensure that innocent third
parties who are involved in business arrangements with the
couple will have their interests protected and that only
those directly involved in money laundering activities will
be affected by the restraint of assets."
The Criminal Proceeds Recovery law essentially forces someone
to prove how an asset was paid for - even if they were
acquitted or criminal charges are not laid.
Inquiries by the Weekend Herald have discovered the
Metropolis raid stems from an ongoing financial investigation
into a friend of Mr Yan, Yingzi Zeng, from whom $9 million in
assets were seized in December.
Her assets, frozen by a High Court judge, included a
late-model Porsche and Maserati, a $3.9 million lifestyle
block, an apartment, a large home, bank accounts and
The court order was made alongside six others affecting
people who face charges of importing and supplying the
class-B drug pseudoephedrine following the record-breaking
Operation Ghost investigation.
Hundreds of charges have been laid against more than 38
people in an inquiry where nearly 600kg of drugs have been
seized. But no charges have been laid against Ms Zeng, who
lives in East Auckland.
Mr Yan stood trial in the High Court at Auckland in May 2012
after pleading not guilty to five charges relating to false
declarations on immigration and citizenship papers. Justice
Timothy Brewer found him not guilty despite saying the
evidence put before him "proves a situation that is highly
Most of the documents were false but were filled out by
others on Mr Yan's behalf. "In the absence of firm evidence
that the accused knew of the falsity ... there would need to
be proof of dishonest intention in using the Liu Yang
identity," the judge said.
Mr Yan has been a permanent resident in NZ since 2002. In
2005, he applied for citizenship, but this was opposed by the
Internal Affairs because his true identity was not known.
He was then granted citizenship by minister Shane Jones
against the advice of officials. His citizenship was
conferred in a VIP ceremony in Wellington after lobbying from
Dover Samuels, a Labour MP at the time, who regards him as a
Last year, the Auditor-General investigated how Mr Yan came
to be granted citizenship, but found no evidence of any
- by Jared Savage
2001: Arrives in New Zealand with two identities, Yang Liu
and Yong Ming Yan.
2002: Granted permanent residency as Yang Liu.
2005: Applied for citizenship. Makes donations to Labour and
2007: Immigration New Zealand's moves to revoke permanent
residency vetoed by minister.
2008: Three MPs write in support of citizenship application.
Citizenship approved by ministerial prerogative, against
advice of officials. Ceremony held at Parliament. Changed his
name to William Yan.
2009: Arrested at Auckland Airport and charged with making
false declarations on his immigration and citizenship
2012: Found not guilty in High Court at Auckland, despite
Justice Timothy Brewer saying the evidence put before him
"proves a situation that is highly suspicious".
2013: Auditor-General releases report which criticises former
Cabinet minister Shane Jones for granting citizenship but
said there was no evidence of wrongdoing.
Thursday: Police raid Mr Yan's penthouse and seize his