Arrest warrant issued for Toronto man who claims to be Chinese Warren Buffet
Pat Hewitt, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, January 6, 2010 8:55PM EST
TORONTO - A Canada-wide arrest warrant was issued Wednesday for a man who claims to be the "Chinese Warren Buffett" and is accused of defrauding victims of tens of millions of dollars through a Ponzi scheme.
Toronto police, who issued the warrant, said they believe Weizhen Tang, 51, is in Hong Kong. They are working with authorities there to bring him back to this country to face a charge of fraud over $5,000, said Const. Tony Vella.
The charge is in addition to the 12 counts of breaching the Securities Act laid against Tang by the Ontario Securities Commission last June 9 related to Oversea Chinese Fund Limited Partnership.
It's alleged that between January 2006 and March 2009, more than 100 victims were defrauded of approximately $30 million through an online trading Ponzi scheme. Authorities allege victims were scammed in the United States, across Canada and in China, including one resident in the Greater Toronto Area who allegedly lost $2.4 million, said Vella.
Police say Tang solicited wealthy investors, as well as new Chinese immigrants, who had to pay the minimum investment of $150,000 required to participate in his Oversea Chinese Fund.
A number of people walked into a Toronto police division in April 2009 claiming they were defrauded and a police investigation was launched, said Vella.
Arrangements had been made in November to bring the suspect back to Canada but he did not return and police believe he is trying to raise money for his defence in Hong Kong, said Vella.
Tang's lawyer, Loftus Cuddy, who had been negotiating Tang's return, said he received a text message from his client Wednesday asking for advice after police announced the warrant.
"Mr. Tang is overseas, I don't know where. Hong Kong is a logical guess," said Cuddy.
"I know that he is over there trading because he wants to make money to return to investors who lost money."
Cuddy, who is representing Tang in his case against the Ontario Securities Commission, said he has not seen the evidence related to the warrant but said Tang is looking forward to clearing his name.
Tang was originally supposed to come back to Canada on Dec. 29, said Cuddy, but he was doing well in online trading and was seeking a month-long extension from police.
A native of mainland China, Tang came to Canada in the 1990s. He is a Canadian who lives in Toronto with his wife and children and his company is based in the city, said Cuddy.
Tang, who is well known in Toronto's Chinese community, had helped fund the Chinese Lunar New Year Show and put on investment summits that featured economists from China and the U.S.
The Ontario Securities Commission alleges Tang committed securities fraud. He's also accused of unregistered trading in securities and illegal distributions of securities. His trial in Provincial Court in that case is scheduled to begin April 19.
The commission said it also ordered Tang not to trade in any securities on March 17, 2009.
On Wednesday, the OSC put out an investor warning that said Tang may be soliciting residents of Ontario for investment purposes and that previous Oversea Chinese Fund investors, their family or friends may be targeted.
The way he reads the order, Tang can trade overseas, said Cuddy, who added his client planned to be in Toronto for the trial on the securities charges. Those charges are separate from the fraud charge that will be laid against Tang by police once he is arrested.
"Mr. Tang has maintained his innocence throughout. (He) has not given me any instructions to plead otherwise. He intends to mount a defence," said Cuddy.
Cuddy disputes suggestions his client fled the country, saying there was no prohibition on Tang leaving Canada. He said Tang left Canada the day after losing a bid in mid-November to have a cease-trade order against him lifted.
More than 40 investors had signed consents asking that Tang be allowed to trade for them, however the cease-trade order was not lifted.
"There have been losses in the millions, but whether those loses are the result of fraud is very much an issue," said Cuddy.
Tang maintains the losses are due to normal trading and business, Cuddy added.