BILL MAJCHER: I look at money laundering, I look at what goes on today, you know this part of the world, it’s a relationship driven culture, right. If you can’t create a relationship with your target, he’s not gonna talk to you.
MARK WILLACY: For years, Bill Majcher has worked in the shadows. As an undercover operative for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police his stock in trade was danger and deception.
BILL MAJCHER: If you’re good at it it’s a calling, you know. I think with all of it, you know, you get a little bit addicted to it …
MARK WILLACY: So being an undercover in itself …
MARK WILLACY: In one operation with the FBI, he infiltrated drug networks linked to the bloodthirsty Colombian cocaine cartels.
BILL MAJCHER: Well it had its moments, for sure, especially when you know that there’s an automatic hundred thousand US dollar hit on your life if they discover who you are.
MARK WILLACY: Now Bill Majcher is cashing in on his 22 years in law enforcement and his vast network of contacts in financial crime.
BILL MAJCHER: I got a call from a banker in Hong Kong who said, ‘How would you like to come to Hong Kong and set up an international banking platform for us? Our primary clients are Chinese state-owned enterprises and so they want to make sure that what they do keeps them compliant.’ And so that ultimately is how I came to Hong Kong when I left the Mounties.
MARK WILLACY: A lot of construction still going on here.
BILL MAJCHER Yeah, never stops, never stops.
MARK WILLACY: Here, on the border between Hong Kong and China you can see how the Communist state has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty…and made many others very rich.
BILL MAJCHER: That over there, 25 years ago was a fishing village. That’s all it was. China when it led to it creating these special economic zones, Shenzhen was one of those zones. Today it is a city of 12 million people.
MARK WILLACY: But this isn’t just a border for people and trade, it’s a pipeline for billions flowing out of China…legitimately, and illegally.
BILL MAJCHER: The vast majority of people over the age of 45, 50, they grew up during the cultural revolution. They understand the powers of the state and that what I have today could be gone tomorrow and so there’s always that sense that if I can at least get my wealth out of China, or at least internationalise it outside of China…I protected my family for future use of that money.
MARK WILLACY: From his Hong Kong base, Bill Majcher runs EMIDR…a firm that works with corporations and governments to recover allegedly stolen money and assets. He is, in his own words, an economic mercenary.
BILL MAJCHER: As long as the claim is valid and as long as we’re doing everything lawful and properly, yep, I’m a hired gun to help either large corporates or governments to get back what is rightfully theirs.
MARK WILLACY: And is the Chinese government one of those people who’ve hired your gun, so to speak?
BILL MAJCHER: I gotta be careful what I say here, but I have a commercial relationship with entities that are in themselves associated in some form or another with policing authorities in China. And a big part of their mandate is focussed on economic crime, financial crime, money laundering.
MARK WILLACY: Hong Kong lawyer Conrad Wan is also a hired gun. He works with Bill Majcher and the Chinese authorities to recover assets and money allegedly stolen from the state. Conrad Wan says that in the last decade alone, China has been stripped of one-point-six trillion dollars by criminals, corrupt officials and fraudsters.
CONRAD WAN: The mainland Chinese police is willing to work with any agents in overseas to locate the people and also locate the assets.
MARK WILLACY: Conrad Wan’s investigations take him all around the world tracking the flow of illicit funds coming out of China…
CONRAD WAN: I’m giving the legal advice, one of the advices, about how to trace back the money in different countries and how to enforce the judgement to overseas, the Chinese judgement overseas.
Hong Kong is the funnel for billions of hot money coming in from the mainland. It’s not a new phenomenon, for decades some of the world’s biggest money-launderers have used this place as a base to wash the globe’s dirty cash
JULIAN RUSSELL: “Once the money is in Hong Kong then you can do what you want with it. Although Hong Kong is part of China, once money from the mainland is in Hong Kong, it’s effectively overseas because there are no exchange controls in Hong Kong.
JULIAN RUSSELL: This is a visualisation of a complex international criminal network …
MARK WILLACY: Like Bill Majcher, former cop Julian Russell is now a private operator in Hong Kong, doing business intelligence work for corporations and governments.
JULIAN RUSSELL: “What we do in the private sector we’ve done for many years and have developed networks of people and sources of information and experiences in solving these international crimes. That’s something most police forces do not do very well.”
MARK WILLACY: Everyone agrees Australia is an attractive destination for money flowing out of China.
CONRAD WAN: Most Chinese people believe that Australia is a good place. A more safe place to hide their money. One of the critical reasons is there’s a low successful case for the Australian government to send back any criminal from Australia to China by using the mutual assistance orders. So for this reason, they believe that no-one can catch the Chinese criminal in Australia.
BILL MAJCHER: I think Australia is attractive for receiving Chinese ill-gotten gains for a couple of very simple reasons. Money is a coward, money doesn’t go where there’s conflict, money doesn’t go where there’s ambiguity. What does Australia represent? Well Australia represents the rule of law, it represents a stable banking system.
MARK WILLACY: It’s no secret that China wants its money back. In 2014 it launched Operation Fox Hunt. A targeted mission to track and repatriate Chinese nationals accused of illegally funnelling billions out of the country, including alleged fugitives in Australia.
DR JOHN COYNE: There’s been a great deal of success with it. So out of the top 100 targets I think about 60 have been recovered now and that’s what the Chinese are claiming.
MARK WILLACY: Former AFP officer John Coyne says Fox Hunt’s critics are concerned it has been used as a political weapon to purge opponents of Chinese president Xi Jinping. Fugitives have also been pressured to return home because of threats against family members in China.
DR JOHN COYNE: It seems as if there’s more than enough evidence that at least in jurisdictions Australia, the US and America, coercive tactics were used to force people to return people back to China.
NEIL JEANS: If you are suspicious, even if you have been previously suspicious, report it. We’re here, all, to help catch bad guys
MARK WILLACY: Neil Jeans runs a firm that advises big corporates around the world on how to comply with anti-money laundering laws.
*NEIL JEANS: I think t’s been well understood for a number years that Australia has been a target location for hot money, particularly coming out of China. We’ve seen that activity increase exponentially over the last number of years. And that creates a problem for Australia which is that hot money is transitory, it will be here today and potentially gone tomorrow, and that then creates dislocations in the legitimate economy.
CGTN REPORT: This has become a familiar scene to people in China.
MARK WILLACY: The Chinese president has now launched phase two of his repatriation and recovery program. An operation code-named Sky Net.
CGTN REPORT: China’s Operation Sky Net has bought home 3051 fugitives and recovered close to 9 billion Yuan.
DR JOHN COYNE: So Sky Net was a much broader and much more extensive activity than its predecessor Fox Hunt and there was a dual focus really with Sky Net, which was get the money back, get the people back.
MARK WILLACY: Last month, Chinese state media aired a documentary about Sky Net’s progress and how authorities are tracking fugitives around the world. The message…no matter where you flee China’s so-called “pursuit teams” will find you.
NEIL JEANS: What we’ve seen with Sky Net is a far more systemic and structured and targeted approach, but with a far wider net.
MARK WILLACY: Now China is employing other means to pursue its missing billions…economic bounty hunters…and it’s engaging them around the world.
MARK WILLACY: Do you think Chinese authorities are operating in Australia, covertly, to try to get that money back?
NEIL JEANS: Certainly, from my experience, yes. I think there are activities going on, they are covert. They are all about applying pressure to people, particularly people that have families back in the country.
MARK WILLACY: Bill Majcher is one of these private operatives. He’s been engaged by a company in Hong Kong working with China’s powerful Ministry of Public Security to track and recover alleged hot money…including in Australia.
BILL MAJCHER: We know how to operate more clearly I think than a country like China or personnel from China in our own jurisdictions. You know, we have a familiarity.
MARK WILLACY: Such as Australia?
BILL MAJCHER: Such as Australia. There’s a huge opportunity to develop and exploit this business channel, especially when it comes to Chinese money of dubious origin that has parked itself in Australia.
MARK WILLACY: This is where some of that Chinese money has landed in Australia. Ever since the white shoe brigade of developers descended on its long glistening beaches five decades ago, the Gold Coast has been a magnet for big money. Here, McMansions line man-made canals…while gleaming mega towers cast their shadows over entire suburbs.
JASON MCFETRIDGE: There’s a range of characters on the Coast, they range from the corporate rascals through down to the, you know, street rascals.
MARK WILLACY: This strip of sun, sand and steel is private investigator Jason McFetridge’s beat.
JASON MCFETRIDGE: You be very careful who you’re dealing with on the Coast and make sure you do your thorough checks and background checks who you’re dealing with because things can go pear shaped very easily.
MARK WILLACY: McFetridge or ‘Ferg’ to his colleagues, is kept busy with investigations into business fraud and custody disputes. Run of the mill stuff for the former New Zealand plainclothes detective.
JASON MCFETRIDGE: You’ve got the ethnic groups, you’ve got bikie gangs, you’ve got fraudsters who are running scams on the coast, and they can be everyday people, it’s hard to decipher which is legit and which is not legit. Hence, why I get a lot of work.
MARK WILLACY: Last year McFetridge got a call from a contact working with China’s Public Security Bureau with the offer of an unusual mission, it would later be code-named Project Dragon.
MARK WILLACY: And what’s the mission? What’s it about?”
JASON MCFETRIDGE: The mission is basically asset recovery of funds that have been filtered in from China to Australia and making inquiries there to unravel what’s actually occurred.
MARK WILLACY: McFetridge’s contact worked for Caruso and Associates, a legal firm with offices in China, Hong Kong and the US. In a letter to McFetridge, Caruso and Associates said it had been appointed by the government of the People’s Republic of China to undertake investigations and asset recovery operations, targeting Chinese individuals or entities complicit in the alleged misappropriation of funds from China and the diversion of those funds to other countries. Caruso and Associates told the ex-cop that millions had been taken out of China, ending up in assets owned by an Australian company called CAP Chevron.
MARK WILLACY: What’s he want you to do?
JASON MCFETRIDGE: Basically make some inquiries into CAP Chevron, do some searches, try and locate the people involved and go from there.
MARK WILLACY: To help him, McFetridge brought in a trusted and well credentialed colleague.
AUSTIN WHITTAKER: Ferg approached me because of my background to see if I might be able to assist him conduct those inquiries.
MARK WILLACY: The information the two former cops got about the alleged dirty money was scant.
AUSTIN WHITTAKER: It was just that money had been misappropriated in China and invested into Australia. But the detail of how and the where of how the money was obtained in China wasn’t available to us at the early stage.
MARK WILLACY: If we go back up the chain, aren’t you effectively working for the Chinese government. Are you comfortable with that?
AUSTIN WHITTAKER: No we’re not working directly for the Chinese government. In this case the Chinese government has entered a public-private partnership with a Chinese company to which they are close who has the mandate to recover money that’s been unlawfully shifted out of China. And they’re simply engaging with them who are in Hong Kong to provide some expertise, some investigative resources to help them do that. Again, as I said, the agenda simply is to help stop the cash flow washing out of their economy.”
MARK WILLACY: Why do you think the Chinese want to use ex law enforcement officials from say Australia?
JASON MCFETRIDGE: It makes it more streamlined. We’re dealing with Chinese in Australia. We reside in Australia. It makes it a bit more professional when you’re dealing with Australian law and court matters, that type of thing. And we have a certain way of dealing with people.
MARK WILLACY: And you’re comfortable working with Chinese authorities?
JASON MCFETRIDGE: So far it’s been no problem at all.
NEIL JEANS: This is fairly unprecedented, where you’ve got one state employing people in other jurisdictions, particularly with the skills and background that these people have. Certainly haven’t come across it before.
MARK WILLACY: The company that McFetridge and Whittaker were asked to investigate – CAP Chevron – was registered to an office at this address…50 Cavill Avenue in the heart of Surfers Paradise.
JASON MCFETRIDGE: There are three directors of CAP Chevron, and at that stage, one was living in Australia, and the other two, unbeknownst to me, were living in China, based in China.
MARK WILLACY: CAP Chevron’s owners and two of its directors were Chinese citizens Bo Bo Wang and Winston Weng. The third director was Sherry Zhao, an Australian resident who works as a real estate agent on the Gold Coast…
JASON MCFETRIDGE: OK, Right now we’re actually on Chevron Island, it’s an island located right behind Surfers Paradise. There’s canals, rivers around it. It’s a lovely area.
MARK WILLACY: When McFetridge and his partner Whittaker set out to investigate CAP Chevron they discovered that Wang and Weng had spent 11-and-a-half million dollars on a piece of real estate on the Gold Coast’s Chevron Island. The property came with council approval for a proposed 18-storey residential and commercial tower.
JASON MCFETRIDGE: We’re approaching the site which is just down here and if you want to see where $11.5 million went, it’s right in front of us.
MARK WILLACY: There were other curious questions about the deal. Wang and Weng paid 11-and-a-half million for the site in the heart of the Gold Coast. They then leased it back for just 100 dollars a year to the real estate agency that brokered the deal and who had offices on the site.
AUSTIN WHITTAKER: The term of the lease was five years with a five-year option to renew. So effectively 10 years of lease is a thousand dollars.
MARK WILLACY: “So the leasees in your opinion got a very good deal?”
AUSTIN WHITTAKER: “It’s a great deal.”
MARK WILLACY: Chinese corporate documents show the money flowed from China through a company called Hangzhou LAIAO – meaning “Hangzhou come to Australia” – this Chinese provincial government permit allowed it to move a total of 14-million dollars into an Australian company called CAP Developments. It was owned by Bo Bo Wang and Winston Weng.
MARK WILLACY: How hard is it to get approval to take that money out of China to invest in say, Gold Coast real estate?
NEIL JEANS: It is significantly difficult, if not impossible, I would suggest. You would have to get approval at very senior levels to move that level of money.
MARK WILLACY: Wang and Weng’s main fund in China spruiked the benefits of the Gold Coast development on its website and invited investors to come on board, promising hefty returns. Legal experts question whether this is permitted, because private funds in China are not allowed to advertise publicly for investors.
DANIEL SHEN: In relation to the high-rise development they proposed in Queensland, if they put out advertisement over the internet to say, “You invest money into that project,” uh, theoretically in China, that is breach law.
MARK WILLACY: Daniel Shen specialises in commercial litigation, acting for Chinese clients who want to make large real estate investments in Australia. Wang and Weng’s fund told would-be investors that a one-and-half million-dollar deposit in their company could secure them an Australian Visa, which they claimed would be an easy step to Australian permanent residency.
DANIEL SHEN: In relation to the advertisement to say as far as the investor to provide 1.5 million dollars we can secure you a permanent residentship I do not believe that is possible. That is not true and that is illegal, you cannot say this.
MARK WILLACY: The time had come for Jason McFetridge and Austin Whittaker to act, to launch their mission to get control of the property.
JASON MCFETRIDGE: It’s hard to tell what’s legit and what’s not legit and that’s the issue we have at the moment.
MARK WILLACY: The plan is audacious, to get the owners of a multi-million dollar Gold Coast property to simply give it up, hand it over. So is this even legal? As former Detectives, McFetridge and Whittaker insist they know the law and are operating within it. They say they’re simply persuading the directors of Cap Chevron to own up and see sense.
ASON MCFETRIDGE: Our plan was to speak to the directors, tell them who we’re working with and what we’re doing, get them to agree and come aboard. From there we can sign the company over. We can sell it, recuperate the losses and return the money back to China. Everyone’s happy. That was the basic plan.
WILLACY: And that’s a legal plan?
McFetridge: It’s a legal plan. There’s no drama.
JASON MCFETRIDGE: As long as someone consents to it, you’re not breaking the law. If someone tells me to go away, I have to go away.
MARK WILLACY: Are these ex law enforcement officers putting themselves at any risk do you believe by operating in Australia for the Chinese government?
NEIL JEANS: I think they have to tread carefully. One of the challenges they’ve got is that they need to walk a very, very narrow line.
MARK WILLACY: Their first step was to approach CAP Chevron’s Australian director Sherry Zhao.
AUSTIN WHITTAKER: So the strategy that we developed was that Ferg would seek to interview Sherry and see whether she was willing to resign as a director and transfer the shares, because our ultimate objective was to seek to sell the property and repatriate the funds back to China.
MARK WILLACY: So what’s your objective with your meeting with Sherry Zhao?
JASON MCFETRIDGE: The objective is to tell Sherry we can resolve this matter, and we need your help. Because as it stands she’s the front person for this company. She has put no money into. She’s just a front, cause she lives in Australia.
MARK WILLACY: Sherry Zhao later recounted in an affidavit in Supreme Court hearings how Jason McFetridge made his initial approach.
SHERRY ZHAO AFFIDAVIT: “He had my mobile phone number. I didn’t particularly want to meet with him. He told me he knew where I lived, knew where my children went to school and knew where my husband worked. I found this intimidating. Mr McFetridge suggested that he would come to my home in the evening, after I told him I was busy with work during office hours. Because I didn’t want Mr McFetridge coming to my house, I agreed to attend a meeting with him at a coffee shop at a shopping centre at Helensvale. I attended the meeting alone.”
JASON MCFETRIDGE: This is Westfield Helensvale shopping centre. This is where I arranged a meeting with Sherry at a local cafe.
MARK WILLACY: This meeting with Sherry Zhao would be crucial if their plan was to succeed.
AUSTIN WHITTAKER: Ferg advised her that his opinion was that she was not a key player and that if she did want to get out then he had the mechanism by which she could resign.
JASON MCFETRIDGE: And telling her that this is serious you know? Can affect things with you going forward. If you go to China, it can affect you.”
MARK WILLACY: In her affidavit Sherry Zhao says she felt scared during the meeting.
SHERRY ZHAO AFFIDAVIT: “Mr McFetridge went on to tell me that he had been appointed as an agent for Shenzen bank on behalf of the Chinese government to repatriate monies illegally moved out of China. Mr McFetridge suggested that I may be in trouble with the Chinese government and if I had been in China I would have been taken to jail. I was feeling frightened at that stage. Mr McFetridge suggested that I had to resign as a director of Cap Chevron to stay out of trouble and so he could protect me.”
JASON MCFETRIDGE: I had a co-worker with me at the meeting, a female worker, to make it a bit more relaxed so there was two of us there at the meeting. We had coffee, we had a drink of water. We talked for over 40 minutes. She was never threatened, never coerced, never at all.
AUSTIN WHITTAKER: The feedback I had from Ferg and the other two people who were there was that Sherry was initially apprehensive, which is understandable, but during the course of that interview indicated that really she didn’t have any equity in the property, that her role was essentially to be the nominee director and that really she just wanted to get out of the situation.
MARK WILLACY: McFetridge claims that Sherry Zhao – realising who she was dealing with at the meeting – decided she wanted nothing more to do with CAP Chevron.
JASON MCFETRIDGE: She said she doesn’t want to be involved anymore. She wants out. And I then told her a plan how we can do that, to resolve it and keep her out of trouble. We had a document written up through our legal consultancy in relation to the directors’ of CAP Chevron resigning, wanting out. She was happy to get the matter resolved. She didn’t want to be in any trouble. She wanted out. She wanted her family safe and didn’t want to be involved at all.
MARK WILLACY: According to McFetridge and Whittaker and her own affidavit, Sherry Zhao signed the papers resigning her directorship.
MARK WILLACY: How are you feeling at this point? It’s all going to plan I suppose?
AUSTIN WHITTAKER: We were happy that we’d executed the part that we need to execute in Australia, and at that stage we felt that would hold up.
MARK WILLACY: Sherry, Mark Willacy from Four Corners, can I just ask you a couple of questions about Cap Chevron?
MARK WILLACY: Sherry Zhao declined to be interviewed by Four Corners…but we caught up with her near her real estate office on Chevron Island
MARK WILLACY: What was the meeting like? Was it intimidating? How did you feel at the meeting?
SHERRY ZHAO: I’m feeling no good. ‘Cause that guy he tries to scare me.
MARK WILLACY: He tried to scare you?
SHERRY ZHAO: Yeah. I talking now to my lawyer and we call the police. I think [what] he said no real.
MARK WILLACY: So do you know where the money came from China to buy CAP Chevron, to buy the property, by CAP Chevron
SHERRY ZHAO: I don’t know, ’cause I’m agent, I just do that yeah.
MARK WILLACY: So who asked you to be a director of the company?
SHERRY ZHAO: Because Bo Bo is my friend so [she] just wants a local director. I said okay I’ll do that.
MARK WILLACY: There’s allegations that money was illegally taken out.
SHERRY ZHAO: It’s legally, it’s legally.
MARK WILLACY: It’s legal? Illegal or legal?
SHERRY ZHAO: Is by law.
MARK WILLACY: Text messages sent just a few days after the meeting reveal that Sherry Zhao helped Jason McFetridge with crucial information, including telephone and address details for her fellow CAP Chevron directors.
SHERRY ZHAO texts: “This is Bo Wong, Chinese mobile number, maybe you need, just sent to you in case.”
JASON MCFETRIDGE replies: “Thanks Sherri that’s really great!!”
MARK WILLACY: With this information, the next phase of the takeover plan could begin.
JASON MCFETRIDGE: The documents from me were sent back to China for them to be executed over there for the other Directors to be located and signed as well.
MARK WILLACY: Whittaker and McFetridge now needed to get the other two directors, the China-based Wang and Weng to also resign from CAP Chevron, and within weeks the documents had been returned to the Gold Coast with what appeared to be Wang and Weng’s signatures, confirming their resignation from the company.
MARK WILLACY to JASON MCFETRIDGE: Are you comfortable with how the signatures were obtained in China?
JASON MCFETRIDGE: Absolutely.
MARK WILLACY: So no coercion or compulsion used?
JASON MCFETRIDGE: I wouldn’t know, I wouldn’t think so. It’s not…I don’t know for sure. But they were signed and it’s a good result.
MARK WILLACY: Having removed the three Chinese directors, Jason McFetridge submitted documents to ASIC which made him the sole director and owner of CAP Chevron.
JASON MCFETRIDGE: The plan was at that stage my company will come in, take ownership of the company, of CAP Chevron, and from there we can facilitate the sale of the property.
MARK WILLACY: McFetridge was set to sell up the property and send the proceeds to China…and to pocket his commission. But he was in for a rude shock, one evening the former detective found a package sitting on his doorstep.
JASON MCFETRIDGE: I picked up the envelope, and it was court documents suing me, and alleging me committing fraud in relation to CAP Chevron. And it was a thick document and I thought well what’s going on here. This is not right, cause whatever I’ve done it’s legit, above board.
MARK WILLACY: So they’ve hit back hard basically accusing Ferg and your team essentially of fraud, forgery and threatening people?
AUSTIN WHITTAKER: And yeah coercion, intimidation, yeah a whole range of sort of unsavoury behaviours that just isn’t how we operate, yeah.
MARK WILLACY: The case launched by Bo Bo Wang and Winston Weng in Brisbane’s Supreme Court accused Jason McFetridge of misleading and deceptive conduct. Wang and Weng’s lawyers told the Supreme Court that the documents used by the former cop to gain control of the company were the result of either fraud or forgery or both, and that Wang and Weng had never resigned as directors. They demanded to be reinstated as directors and their ownership of the company restored and they wanted damages awarded against McFetridge.
MARK WILLACY: Wang and Weng say they never resigned as directors, that you were never appointed as a director, and that you engaged in fraud and forgery. What is your response to that?
JASON MCFETRIDGE: Well that’s wrong for a start, because when we got the documents back from China, we went through the right procedures for ASIC’s to get it changed over, to get CAP Chevron changed and turned over into my company’s name. So it was all done by the book, on advice from our legal counsel.
MARK WILLACY: But you don’t know what happened at the Chinese end though do you? Whether that was done officially and properly with Wang and Weng?
JASON MCFETRIDGE: I’m just going with the documents that we got. So I presume it was done properly. That’s out of my hands, you know what I mean? I presume it was done professionally and done properly.
MARK WILLACY: McFetridge was advised by his contact in China and his lawyer not to contest the case. The Supreme Court ruled that the former detective had never been validly appointed as a director or shareholder of CAP Chevron. And that Wang, Weng and Sherry Zhao had at all times been the lawful directors. The court restrained McFetridge from selling the property.
MARK WILLACY: Wang, Weng and Sherry Zhao, they’ve won the case. It looks like you and your team are breaking the law. What’s your response to that?
AUSTIN WHITTAKER: Well clearly we’re not breaking the law. We sought to execute a process that involved the agreement and cooperation of the three parties and they initially cooperated and at some later point changed their mind about co-operations.
JASON MCFETRIDGE: We complied with what they wanted. What they wanted was that CAP Chevron be returned back to CAP Chevron directors, the Chinese directors and that we resign. And we gave, we signed to that.
AUSTIN WHITTAKER: We just wanted to focus on continuing the investigation, not fighting a legal case that may go either way, as court cases often do. We thought we’ll just step back, we may have lost that battle but the war is not over.
MARK WILLACY: Ten days ago, a Queensland police detective visited Jason McFetridge at home…acting on a complaint from Bo Bo Wang. McFetridge says police told him it was alleged that he’d intimidated Sherry Zhao. The police have told Four Corners they’re still investigating the matter.
JASON MCFETRIDGE: We’ve had legal advice along the whole way. Before I do anything, we get legal advice to make sure we’re within the boundaries of the law, and make sure that it’s thorough, what we’re doing.
MARK WILLACY: Sherry Zhao resigned as a director of CAP Chevron last year. Bo Bo Wang and Winston Weng are back in charge of the company and the 11-and-a-half million dollar property.
MARK WILLACY: Through a Chinese interpreter, Four Corners contacted Bo Bo Wang on the phone in China, she did not want to speak to us.
Interpreter: “She hung up the phone”
MARK WILLACY: A spokeswoman for Bo Bo Wang told Four Corners the Gold Coast property was bought with Wang and Weng’s personal money. She denied any illicit funds were used. She says neither the Chinese Public Security Bureau or any other agency has contacted Wang about the deal, and that Wang denies ever advertising to potential investors. And she says Wang wants police to investigate what she calls McFetridge’s fraudulent claims…saying they’ve caused her and Weng huge losses.
DR JOHN COYNE: There’s nothing wrong with hiring consultants and people do it in any country. Where it becomes a little murkier is when you start stepping beyond those normal roles on instruction from a foreign government.
MARK WILLACY: So why is China using private operatives, when it has a co-operation agreement with the Australian Federal Police? Three months ago the AFP smashed an alleged money laundering scheme by Chinese nationals. Seizing eight-and-a-half million dollars worth of property. It appears China is running a two-track strategy.
NEIL JEANS: What I think we are seeing with the use of covert operations and former law enforcement operatives, is a willingness to try every means possible, regardless of the impact of that. Whether that’s frustration, whether that’s desperation, or whether that’s the Chinese authorities simply looking at another angle to apply pressure to bring this money back.
MARK WILLACY: So from the Chinese perspective hiring these guys is quite a smart move?
NEIL JEANS: Absolutely.
MARK WILLACY: Despite losing the court case, the Gold Coast ex-cops say they have been told to keep pursuing the CAP Chevron money. And there are fresh targets in sight, Bill Majcher has been brought in to breathe new life into Project Dragon.
JASON MCFETRIDGE: Bill has a lot of clout. He knows a lot of high-ranking officials in China.
MARK WILLACY : So Bill’s the heavy hitter you need?
JASON MCFETRIDGE: He is the heavy hitter.
AUSTIN WHITTAKER: Bill and his company are essentially instructing us as their Australian arm on the asset recovery operations in Australia. So Bill’s coordinating the Chinese end, we’re coordinating investigations at the Australian end.
BILL MAJCHER: We’re not gonna get involved or do something that is gonna put us off side with the police in the jurisdictions we operate in. We don’t want to be offside, we want to do it properly. We don’t need to see a story in the front page of the newspaper where somebody took a short cut.
MARK WILLACY: This team of private operatives believes they’re onto a winner with Project Dragon, and a lucrative one for them. They say they’ve identified 80-million dollars worth of property on the Gold Coast that they suspect has been bought with laundered cash by other Chinese nationals. And if it does involve dirty money, they want to help get it back to China.
AUSTIN WHITTAKER: There’s what we’re referring to as a cluster of properties at Sovereign Island. Most of them, or all of them waterfront, luxuriously appointed, all vacant. It’s very early days for us with that set of properties and we’ll be doing some work on that.
JASON MCFETRIDGE: Information I’ve received through realtors is that they find a property, they like it, they sign a sale of purchase and they buy the property with a large amount of cash. They bring in a briefcase full of cash.
BILL MAJCHER: I see us in a growth industry. I see there being a need to hire other former law enforcement from various backgrounds of law enforcement in Australia to assist us. Because definitely the problem isn’t going away and the magnitude of the need is not diminishing, if anything it’s expanding.