A much-vaunted $500 million project planned for the
heart of Suva bites the dust as the chairman of the investment company
faces investigation from Chinese government authorities after
his Handan Golden Century Real Estate company collapsed in August last year.
According to media reports, the man, Shi Yubao, fled the northern Chinese city of Handan in September 2014 after his company was unable to make payments of USD506 million in debts owed to thousands of people from whom moneys had been illegally raised to fund Golden Century’s development projects.
Shi Yubao, CEO of Handan Golden Century Real Estate is the principal shareholder (70%) of the company, Gold Century Group (Fiji) Ltd investing in the Raiwaqa Chinatown project.
We are informed that the principals of Gold Century Group were introduced to Bainimarama by a well known tourism industry personality and that all paper work for the Group were handled by a reputable accounting firm with close connections to this honcho.
This is the second major ambitious project, announced with much fanfare by the Bainimarama regime in the past five years, to collapse as a result of the dubious background of its investors. It follows pretty much on the heels of the Denarau casino scam.
The proposed development with an announced outlay of $500 million envisaged the creation of a satellite city with an up market residential complex and a state-of the-art commercial, residential, shopping and entertainment centre.
Shi Yubao himself flew into Fiji in September 2011 to sign an agreement for the project with the regime. He was met at the airport by none other than Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama. The Fiji media later displayed pictures of him signing the agreement on the deal with Shi.
Both hailed the deal as a major boost for Fiji. Shi expressed gratitude to the Fiji regime for “moving fast to facilitate his investment”.
Permanent Secretary for Lands Filimone Kau went so far as to “vouch for the credibility of the company (Gold Century), saying: “They have done similar construction work in China and they are a credible company.”
Solicitor General Christopher Pryde was just as upbeat, describing it as a significant boost to the Fijian economy.
“Apart from employment opportunities, there will be even more an opportunity for local and foreign businesses to open up shops at Raiwai once the development is complete,” Fiji Sun quoted him saying on 30 September 2011, following the signing ceremony with Shi Yubao.
Instead of waxing jubilant, Pryde, as Solicitor General, should have done his homework on the company before letting the regime get into such a dubious deal.
In view of the debacle in Handan, it is obvious the regime and its advisers had failed to do due diligence on the company and its directors, as it had failed to do so in the case of the $300 million Denarau casino deal.
As pointed out earlier, the enclosed Raiwaqa land has now become a major environmental hazard, causing serious flooding to nearby heavily settled areas of Raiwaqa, Laucala Bay and Vatuwaqa during heavy rains.
The initial clearing and earthworks carried out on the site has obviously interfered with the natural drainage of the tiri foreshore. Yet another project that was allowed to proceed without proper Environmental Impact Assessment studies being done.