Yan carried torture scars, letter told Jones

ANDREA VANCE AND DANYA LEVY
Last updated 05:00 26/05/2012

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Police say they "retain an interest" in Chinese millionaire Yong Ming Yan because he is still wanted by Interpol.

Mr Yan – also known as Bill Liu – was cleared of passport fraud by a High Court judge in Auckland this week. But a spokesman for police confirmed an Interpol "red notice" remains in place.

The red flag requests a provisional arrest of a wanted person with a view to extraditing them. The cross-border crime-fighting agency says it is "the closest instrument to an international arrest warrant".

However, a police spokesman said a red notice was "not sufficient grounds to arrest" and evidence must be presented to a New Zealand court for a warrant to be issued.

"I can confirm there is still an Interpol red notice on Yong Ming Yan," he said "The red notice means we continue to retain an interest in him."

Chinese authorities requested the notice because they allege he stole the identity of Yong Ming Yan in 1999 and embezzled $2.7million. Former MP Dover Samuels – a friend of Mr Yan – says the charges have been dropped.

Labour leader David Shearer stood down Labour MP Shane Jones earlier this week and asked Auditor-General Lyn Provost to investigate why he approved Mr Yan's citizenship in 2008, against the advice of officials.

A letter to Mr Jones in August 2008 from Mr Yan's lawyer, John Billington, QC, said he faced the death penalty.

Mr Jones had said he approved the application on "humanitarian grounds" because Mr Yan would be arrested, executed and his "organs harvested" if he returned to China.

Internal Affairs yesterday released the submission. Mr Billington had said claims by the Chinese authorities were of "particular concern".

His letter said a medical report found evidence of "incarceration and torture which has manifested itself in the scars he bears today".

Mr Billington explained Mr Yan had two birth dates because he was fostered and both families had registered him.

"There are no false passports. Both passports were original passports issued by the Chinese authorities."

Mr Jones was also told there were no limitations on exercising his discretion, provided there were "exceptional circumstances of a humanitarian or other nature" and the citizenship would be "in the public interest".

From a legal perspective, public interest could include "unjust interference with an applicant's right to remain in New Zealand by a foreign power".

Mr Jones has welcomed an inquiry, saying it is the only way to clear his name.

Ms Provost announced on Thursday that she would fast-track Mr Shearer's request and make a decision on whether to investigate within days.

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THE SAGA THAT LED TO SHANE JONES BEING SIDELINED

Who is Bill Liu/Yong Ming Yan?

A Chinese millionaire businessman who arrived in New Zealand in late 2001. He was granted residency in 2002.

But the Jilin Public Security Bureau in China says he was born Yong Ming Yan and stole the identity of Yang Liu in 1999, obtaining two false passports. His lawyer said Mr Yan had differing birth dates - 1969, 1971 or 1972 - because he was fostered out by his birth parents for a short time, and both families registered him. His passports were not false, but issued by the Chinese authorities, he said. Mr Yan was granted New Zealand citizenship in the name of Yang Liu in August 2008. Days later he changed it to William Yang, and was granted a New Zealand passport. He is known to his friends as Bill Liu. He is married to Vienna, a former international student with New Zealand citizenship. They have two children, Tiffany, 7, and Emily, 4.

Why was he in court?

He was on trial before a judge charged with five counts of fraudulently using documents to obtain residency and citizenship. He originally faced 12 charges, but after the Crown withdrew evidence from Chinese state security officials, seven were dropped. Mr Yan was arrested before he boarded a plane to Korea in 2009. Procedural issues kept the case in court for more than two years. On Thursday, Justice Timothy Brewer found Mr Yan not guilty, saying the charges were not proven to an adequate standard.

So, why the political storm?

Labour Cabinet minister Shane Jones approved Mr Yan's citizenship against the advice of Internal Affairs officials in August 2008. The case file sent to Mr Jones noted Mr Yan was wanted in China for embezzling $2.7 million and had been red-flagged by Interpol. For those reasons he didn't pass the good character test. A few months earlier immigration officials approached immigration minister David Cunliffe recommending Mr Yan's permanent residency be revoked because of the allegations made about him. Mr Cunliffe recommended further investigation and in April 2008 Immigration obtained a search warrant - it wanted the documents that Mr Yan had provided to Internal Affairs as part of his application for citizenship. Mr Jones was aware of this when he granted the passport. When the case came to trial, pressure grew on Mr Jones, now a list MP, to explain his decision. He was eventually stood down by Labour leader David Shearer, who asked the auditor-general to investigate.

What is his explanation?

Initially Mr Jones said nothing. On Tuesday he fronted up and said he granted citizenship on "humanitarian grounds". An Internal Affairs official told him if Mr Yan was returned to China he would be arrested, executed and his organs harvested, he said. Officials have gone back through their files and can find only one reference to Mr Yan being in danger - a letter from his then-lawyer John Billington.

So was Mr Yan in danger?

Mr Billington believes he was, saying he bore scars from incarceration and torture. Dover Samuels, a former Labour minister, said his friend Mr Yan is a long-time supporter of Falun Gong, opponents of the Communist regime. Photographs were taken of him at a march in New York in 1989, which placed Mr Yan in danger. That view does not tally with evidence Internal Affairs officials gave in court saying Mr Yan had talked of taking MP friends on a trip to China.

What other MPs are involved?

Mr Samuels wrote letters in support of Mr Yan and supported him through his trial. He arranged for the citizenship ceremony to take place at Parliament. He says Mr Yan is "a bloody good bloke" and has been persecuted by the authorities. Former Labour ethnic affairs minister Chris Carter wrote a letter in support of Mr Yan. National MP Pansy Wong also wrote a letter - she has known Mr Yan since 2005. Mr Yan also knew Rick Barker - he was internal affairs minister in 2008 and should have made the final decision on citizenship, but declared a conflict of interest. Mr Yan also donated at least $10,000 to both parties.

Anyone else?

Mr Yan met Labour Party organiser Shane Te Pou at a fundraiser in 2005. Mr Te Pou told the court he was paid $5000 to fill in Mr Yan's application for citizenship. Mr Te Pou - also known as Shane Phillips - has business links to Mr Barker. His brother is Danny Phillips, who was Mr Jones' senior private secretary in 2008.

Do ministers usually decide who gets citizenship?

A minister usually only gets involved in "exceptional circumstances". When officials told Mr Yan he had failed the "good character test", he said he was happy to let his application go to the minister.

What's the link to Australia?

Crown lawyer David Johnstone said he was seeking evidence that Mr Yan tried to get citizenship in Australia under the name of Liu. It is known that in 2005 bank accounts he held in Australia were frozen and in June 2007, $4m was sent to the Chinese Government. Mr Yan was not convicted of any offence - he agreed to the repatriation without an admission of liability.

What happens now?

Auditor-General Lyn Provost is deciding whether an investigation is warranted and will announce her decision next week. Mr Yan is a free man and remains a New Zealand citizen. Mr Samuels said Mr Yan was taking some time out after the trial to spend time with his family. He also said the Chinese authorities have withdrawn the charges.

- The Dominion Post

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