Thursday, January 31, 2013

Watson Island becomes the backdrop for a Chinese legal thriller

Andy Hoffman, the Globe and Mail reporter who has been doggedly following the chain of events regarding developments of the Watson Island pulp mill saga must be starting to feel like he's ghost writing for one of John Grisham's legal thrillers.

The Watson Island file has been a seemingly never ending trail and for the most part it's been the work of Mr. Hoffman and the Globe that has given us the bulk of the information of each twist and turn of this long running story.

And the bizarre tales coming from the Chinese side of the Sun Wave story, became even a little bit more bizarre today, with the latest instalment from Hoffman's ongoing project.

Wrapped up in the long running legal proceedings in British Columbia over the fate of the mill site is the latest bombshell of reports over corruption in China. With the Globe reporting that Mr. Ni Ritao the Chinese businessman at the centre of the Watson Island case is now apparently in custody,  alleged to be involved in a Chinese bank fraud scheme related to the mill.

Since he's been rather indisposed of late, it's probably not a surprise that there hasn't been much in the way of movement from Mr. Ni on the Watson Island file on this side of the ocean.

Even if he was available for appearances in a BC court, it would seem he would possibly be spread a little thin, in addition to the Prince Rupert proceedings in court, Mr. Ni is apparently involved in several separate legal actions in the province.

However, as this whole tale is evolving, all of the British Columbia filings are starting to become but a sideline to the ever growing and clearly much more intriguing story.

As it would seem that Mr. Ni clearly has much larger worries to deal with at the moment.

Further revelations in the Globe story outline  how the investigation in China is leading to some of the higher reaches of the Chinese government, with the head of China's National Energy Administration and vice-director of a top planning agency reportedly also reportedly under investigation in relation to the investment troubles.

All of these details are now finding their way to the western press, something that isn't exactly the usual operating procedure for the Chinese.

With this sudden burst of disclosure from the normally circumspect Chinese, it would appear that the Chinese government has apparently decided that this may be the case to launch its campaign to root out corruption in Chinese government circles, with Watson Island served up as some form of smoking gun it seems.

The BC Liberal government must be getting to the point where they are wishing that Mr. Ni had perhaps chosen some other destination for his would be investment plans.

As the Globe reviews in this latest story, Mr. Ni has made contact with Liberal officials in the past and at times has provided financial donations to the party and some of its past candidates over the course of a three year period from 2005-2007.

Considering the percolating situation in China, that probably wasn't a welcome reminder for the government, which may soon be facing some more questions about how much involvement it has had with the Chinese businessman.

Once again, this latest instalment as all the others were, is well worth the read.

The Globe and Mail story can be found here, links to the other Hoffman stories on the theme are included in the main body of the story.

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