Developers say it is “business as usual” on the construction site of a $300 million Auckland hotel and apartment skyscraper – despite the Australian Federal Court freezing its owner’s assets.
Chinese businesswoman Min Wang, whose company Hengyi owns the landmark under-construction The Pacifica tower, has been accused of giving misleading information to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and stung with a A$103 million amended assessment for the 2015 and 2016 financial years.
An Aston Martin, a Rolls Royce, a luxury Melbourne home and a trust fund loan are among the more than A$100 million in personal assets frozen by the tax authority.
Following revelations of the action, Hengyi issued a statement saying: “Hengyi objects to this claim assessment as published. We can confirm we are and able to continue to operate our businesses, in particular the completion of Swanston Central, Melbourne and The Pacifica, Auckland. It is business as usual.
“Construction activity continues at pace on-site at The Pacifica. The concrete core jump form construction platform has reached levels 41, which is 72 per cent of the way towards its 57-floor total.
“Work continues on programme to deliver The Pacifica as planned in time for the next America’s Cup. 80 percent of apartments have been sold to date.”
The 57-level apartment tower is set to become the nation’s second-biggest skyscraper when completed and will include a luxury boutique 25-room hotel on the lower six floors fronting Commerce Street with its own lobby.
The Australian court heard Wang “made false statements in her income tax returns for the 2014 and 2015 income years about her interests in China by representing that she did not have assets located outside Australia with a total value of more than $50,000 and did not have an interest in any controlled foreign company”.
Information obtained by the ATO showed that in the 2014 financial year, she held shares in three foreign companies (Shandong Hengyi Investment Co Ltd, Weifang Hengyi Property Co Ltd and Changyi Liyang Commercial Development Co Ltd), according to court documents.
ATO investigations also showed Wang continued to hold shares in Shandong in the 2015 financial year, and that her shareholdings in those years were “worth substantially more than $50,000 at the time”.
The decision referred to evidence that Wang “gave misleading information to the Australian Taxation Office” concerning the funding of a Melbourne property bought through Hengyi.
Days after the ATO action, the company put its 1928 former Carlton & United Breweries warehouse-turned-office asset on the market in Melbourne, with a price tag expected to be close to A$20 million.
Ms Wang and her husband, Hengyi president Liang Cheng, divide their time between living in Australia and China.
The Pacifica is being built by Icon Co, the construction firm behind the Sydney Opal Tower which was evacuated last Christmas Eve over structural concerns. It is due for completion in October 2020.