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Korean property tycoon’s marathon extradition fight in Canada is revealed, his fraud case unreported for years

July 26, 2021 GMT

A media spotlight has been trained on Meng Wanzhou’s fight in Vancouver to avoid a US trial for more than two years, but another international extradition battle involving a once high-profile business figure has been quietly playing out in the same court for even longer.

The South China Morning Post has learned that Jung Myung-soo, a former real estate tycoon behind what was one of Metro Vancouver’s biggest property developments, is wanted by his native South Korea to face multimillion-dollar allegations of fraud.

But unlike the extradition fight of Huawei Technologies executive Meng, which has drawn attention worldwide, Jung’s battle has until now gone unreported.

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His case demonstrates the potential marathon nature of such proceedings, with South Korean prosecutors pursuing Jung in Canada since 2011, as a result of alleged offences dating back another six years.

In 2005, Jung’s Central City development, involving five skyscrapers and 1,400 residential units, was hailed as a transformative project for the Vancouver satellite of Surrey by that city’s mayor, Doug McCallum.

But Jung Developments, of which Jung was CEO, filed for bankruptcy protection in 2008, in the wake of turmoil on Wall Street; the project was eventually taken over by Concord Pacific and was completed under a rebranding as Park Place.

Legal documents related to South Korea’s pursuit of Jung are not on public view and can be viewed only by counsel involved in the case, staff at the Supreme Court of British Columbia registry in Vancouver said.

But details of the allegations against Jung were described in a committal hearing that took place in the Supreme Court on June 28; the SCMP listened to a recording of the proceedings.

South Korea’s Ministry of Justice accuses Jung of defrauding two investors, including one surnamed Gwan who is said to have invested more than C$6 million (US$4.8 million) in Central City in 2005; Jung is said to have misrepresented his personal wealth, the success of the project and how he was spending the money. He is accused of fleeing to Canada in 2011 amid legal proceedings in Seoul.

Jung’s lawyers are not challenging his committal in entirety. Instead, they say he should only be surrendered on the Gwan accusations, claiming that the request to have Jung surrendered for prosecution on the others, involving his dealings with a man surnamed Kim in 2007, is improper ” because Jung had already gone on trial in Korea for the Kim matter and was actually wanted for sentencing.

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“He’s not going to get a trial at the end of this process on this count,” Jung’s lawyer Tony Paisana told Justice David Crossin at the committal hearing. “He’s going to get a sentencing hearing. We can’t quibble over form and ignore the substance.”

Ryan Dowadharry, a Canadian government lawyer representing South Korean interests in the extradition case, told the hearing that the prosecution of Jung in Korea was still pending.

“There’s no evidence before your lordship that he was sentenced, that he was convicted or that the proceedings have concluded,” said Dowadharry.

Reading from the record of the case ” a summary provided to the Canadian court by South Korean authorities ” Dowadharry said “a judgment could not be rendered (in the Kim matter) as the trial proceedings came to a halt when the suspect fled the country”.

He added: “There were confessions and written statements by Mr Jung to the victims, one of which was an admission at trial ... Mr Jung confessed the facts of his crime, that he defrauded Mr J. Kim.”

South Korean authorities issued their first Jung case record to Canada in August 2011. But the Canadian warrant for Jung’s arrest was not issued until November 2017, Dowadharry said.

If Crossin decides to commit Jung for extradition, the matter will go to Canada’s justice minister to write a surrender order. Paisana urged Crossin to state in his reasons for committal that it was for the Gwan allegations only, which he hoped would represent “valuable information” for later stages of the process.

“If your lordship accedes to our submission, as does the minister in support, he will only be surrendered under the 2005 offence with the implied conditions ... that he not be sentenced for the 2007 offence,” said Paisana.

“And that’s a significant point for Mr Jung. And some might think that’s a windfall, or what have you. But it is on the requesting state and the attorney general of Canada to seek the proper route if what they are seeking is, in fact, the imposition of sentence which I say is clearly the case here.

“If the end result is they don’t get to sentence him on something that they would have liked to, well, frankly, too bad.”

Paisana is also one of the lawyers representing Meng in her extradition case, in which hearings are scheduled to resume on August 3. And one of the Canadian Department of Justice lawyers involved in the Jung case, Diba Majzub, is also on the government team representing US interests opposing Meng.

Jung was a seen as a key figure in the development of Surrey in the mid-2000s via his Central City project; at the time it was described as the biggest residential and retail project in Surrey’s history.

“You won’t recognise it in a year’s time,” Mayor McCallum said of the seven-acre (2.8 hectare) Central City site when he helped open the project’s sales office in 2005, according to The Vancouver Sun.

In a 2005 profile in BC Business magazine, Jung was said to have moved from Seoul to West Vancouver the previous July, for the sake of his children’s education.

“I thought first about education, and then about business, second,” he was quoted as saying, adding that he planned to spend 80 per cent of his time in Canada.

The report said Jung was a former law student at Seoul’s Yonsei University who had failed his final examination. But it hailed his business acumen and said that in addition to his Canadian operation, he ran five other development companies in South Korea, China, Uzbekistan, Ukraine and Russia.

“It is very comfortable to do business in Canada, I feel,” he was reported as saying. “Canada is more stable than Korea economically. If I keep the regulations and the rules, the company will be successful continuously.”

Crossin will deliver his ruling on whether to commit Jung for extradition on September 29.

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia. For more SCMP stories, please download our mobile app, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

Copyright (c) 2021. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.