Chinese woman trying to buy into NZ dairy industry is charged with corruption

Wellington (dpa) – A woman who headed the first Chinese bid to buy into the New Zealand dairy industry, the country’s biggest export earner, has been charged in Hong Kong with corruption and money laundering, the Serious Fraud Office said Tuesday.
New Zealand’s Overseas Investment Office turned down the bid by a company associated with May Hao, formerly known as May Wang, to buy 16 dairy farms in liquidation, saying the applicants did not meet the required condition “to be of good character.”
Natural Dairy NZ Holdings told the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, where it was listed, in March 2010 that it planned to buy farms, livestock and milk powder plants worth up to 1.5 billion New Zealand dollars (1.2 billion US dollars) in a major investment in the New Zealand dairy industry.
The New Zealand Serious Fraud Office (SFO) began investigating Hao and the company after the Overseas Investment Office referred the bid to it.
SFO chief executive Adam Feeley said Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) began a separate investigation after receiving an allegation and the two agencies worked together on the matter.
Feeley said the ICAC had on Monday charged Hao with one count of conspiracy to offer advantages to an agent and two counts of dealing with property known or reasonably believed to represent proceeds of a crime.
An arrest warrant was issued, for a co-accused, Chen Keen, also known as Jack Chen, after he failed to appear to face corruption charges involving the payment of secret commissions and money laundering.
Feeley said the SFO considered laying charges in New Zealand. “We believe that there is clear evidence of offending having occurred in New Zealand. However, the alleged crimes were primarily directed at Hong Kong and Chinese investors and we therefore consider it is more appropriate for the authorities in Hong Kong lay the charges.”
Author: David Barber