OIO mulls action over illegal May Wang farm buys
The Overseas Investment Office is taking legal advice as it considers what to do about four North Island dairy farms bought illegally by a May Wang-linked company.
Late last year, an application for retrospective consent for the purchase of four Crafar farms by UBNZ Funds and UBNZ Assets, was declined by the government after Ms Wang was declared bankrupt.
UBNZ had bought the properties in February without applying for OIO approval.
The purchases were separate to the bid by Hong Kong-based Natural Dairy – fronted by Ms Wang – to purchase 16 of the Crafar farms for $220 million, an application also rejected by the government.
“It remains the OIO’s view that UBNZ Assets and UBNZ Funds are associates of an overseas person (Natural Dairy (NZ) Holdings Limited), and therefore consent under the Overseas Investment Act 2005 was required to purchase the four farms,” said Annelies McClure, Manager of the OIO.
“As consent was not sought before the farms were purchased, and retrospective consent was not granted by ministers, UBNZ Funds and UBNZ Assets have, in the OIO’s opinion, breached section 42 of the Act (which makes it an offence for a person to purchase overseas investments without consent).”
The OIO is seeking legal advice before deciding what action to take, she said.
“Possible actions that could be taken by the OIO include bringing a prosecution or seeking an order for a civil penalty, and applying to the High Court for an order that the farms be sold. However, UBNZ Assets could also voluntarily sell the farms.”