National donor in China bribery case

Donghua Liu's involvement in the Chongqing case was simply that of a witness, his lawyer said....
Donghua Liu's involvement in the Chongqing case was simply that of a witness, his lawyer said. Photo / Richard Robinson
A wealthy Auckland businessman, whose links to the National Party led to a senior minister's resignation, gave cut-price real estate deals to a Chinese politician in return for business favours, according to a court judgment.

Donghua Liu said he was not charged in connection to the corruption case but gave evidence at the trial which led to a 13-year jail sentence for the political leader who was convicted of accepting bribes.

Liu's role as a witness in the prosecution case throws a new spotlight on his background in China. An Immigration Department spokesman was unable to answer questions about the case yesterday.

According to a court judgment obtained and translated by the Herald, Liu -- as general manager of real estate development company Chongqing Tianlong -- sold real estate to the political leader and his wife at heavily discounted prices, purchased some back at inflated rates and waived debt to a total benefit of $375,000 to the couple.

In return, the Chinese politician used his position to support Liu's construction and cement businesses by approving projects as well as land permits and mining licences.

The court's verdict states that Liu gave evidence at the 2006 trial of Ping Ma and his wife which confirmed his "buying low, selling high" real estate deals described by Chinese authorities as "emotional investment".

Ping Ma was the Secretary of the Tongliang County, Chongqing committee of the Communist Party of China.

"Although Liu didn't make a specific request in exchange for the gift, the intention was clear that as a county party secretary Ping Ma would have the power to benefit the companies in the future," said the verdict of the Intermediate People's Court of Chongqing.

"In the process of accepting several 'emotional investments', Ping Ma had made a clear commitment: 'Come to me whenever you need, I will help as much as I can.'

"The two defendants paid obviously lower-than-market prices to buy [Liu's company's] development of residential, retail and commercial buildings.

"Although the behaviour is different compared to directly receiving properties, it is only a different method of covering their criminal acts of bribery."

Ping Ma and his wife, Jianping Shen, were convicted of accepting bribes and jailed for 13 and five years in prison respectively for obtaining $375,000 through the real estate deals. The convictions were upheld on appeal to the Higher People's Court but Shen's sentence was reduced to three years.

Liu's Auckland-based lawyer, Todd Simmonds, said that neither Liu nor his company was charged with any alleged offending.

"The involvement of Mr Liu in these proceedings was simply that of a witness," Mr Simmonds said.

"Mr Liu does not wish to make any further comment in relation to this matter."

- Jared Savage of The New Zealand Herald