Expelled by Romania, welcome by Moldova

The biggest shopping mall from Kishinev is closed for over a year and the state took over its management. It is owned by a Chinese company and has tens of millions of dollars in debt. A court of law ruled the initiation of a bankruptcy procedure at the request of the banks that offered to loan it. The company was owned by some Chinese banished from Romania in 2012 „out of national security reasons”. They were accused by the Romanian authorities of espionage and organized crime.

The foreign capital company from the Republic of Moldova Shan Lian International Group SRL (incorporated in 2003 with a share capital of MD lei 9.3 million – around USD 400,000) owns, in Moldova, the Megapolis Mall and the Everest supermarket. We are talking about a commercial area of 30,000 sqm. The owners are four Chinese accused of espionage and organized crime in Romania, being declared unwanted. They are Zheng Siyong, Zheng You, Li Ning and Zheng Shuliang.

According to the Romanian Ministry of Internal Affairs, the four Chinese citizens „set up a group of organized crime”, their presence in Romania facilitating the steps for generating certain illegal self-sustainable financial circuits, “with a direct impact in weakening the public order climate and the internal security environment”. The Chinese citizens created an illegal financial mechanism of over one thousand companies, their purpose being to prejudice the Romanian state budget by export operations with merchandise purchased „under the counter”, registered through many companies, with the purpose of recovering the VAT, money laundering, import operations with evading the customs fees and illegal funds outsourcing.

On December 20th, 2012, the Bucharest Court of Appeal accepted the request from the Public Prosecutor’s Office for ruling the four Chinese as unwanted for a period of 10 years out of national security reasons. Li Ning, Zheng Shuliang, Zheng You and Zheng Siyong filed an appeal at the High Court of Cassation and Justice (ÎCCJ), that maintained the decision of the Court of Appeal. ÎCCJ rejected the appeals filed by Li Ning, Zheng Shuliang, Zheng You and Zheng Siyong against the decision of the Court of Appeal, as ungrounded, the decision being irrevocable.

Nevertheless, Zheng Siyong is still registered as a sole associate in the company Shan Lian International Import Export SRL in Romania, being associated with the Chinese citizen accused of organized crime called Li Ning in the company Rich Forest SRL, a company dealing with timber export activities. Zheng Xing is the son of Zheng Siyong. Data from the Romanian Trade Registry show that Zheng Xing owns 30% of the commercial centre Dragonul Roşu SA (Romania). Mainly, it markets merchandise from China, but one third of the traders are Romanian.

In June 2018, the prosecutors and Customs officials from Moldova found a smuggling scheme with consumer goods brought from Dragonul Roșu – a commercial centre frequently targeted by the anti-fraud inspectors due to tax evasion. Their group was tailed by the Moldavian Customs special services. Investigations proved also the involvement of an inspector from Sculeni Custom’s unit.

Romanian prosecutors mentioned some Moldavian nationals being involved in the scam, especially regarding cash flow outsourcing – from Romania to Ukraine, where they were introduced in the local banking system, and then the money went, after being transferred from one account to another, into banks from the Baltic States and then to New Zeeland, China and Vietnam.

Megapolis Mall was built in Kishinev and replaced what supposedly had to be the biggest computer manufacturing plant in the former USSR.

The abandoned Megapolis Mall near Kishinev. Source: Vitalie Calugareanu

Shan Lian International Group started the project in 2006 and the opening was scheduled for 2008. The Australian with Chinese origins Zheng Siyong (born in the Fujian Provence, China) never attended a public event in the Republic of Moldova.

The list of founders of Shan Lian International Group SRL was supplemented by the Romanian company Bianca Little SRL (founded in Fundeni, county of Ilfov, Romania), which owns 10% of the company that manages Megapolis Mall.

On March 4th 2019, at the request of the creditor Victoriabank, a court of law in Kishinev stated the insolvency of the company Shan Lian International Group. The land and the building were a pledge to Victoriabank for loans amounting to approx. MD lei 135 million (over USD 6 million).

Efforts are now being made to sell the gigantic shopping mall outside of Kishinev. The initial price is MD lei 173 million (USD 9.4 million). The real estate is going to be sold all at once, also with the adjacent land of over 4 ha. Contacted by phone, Ion Lașcu, the manager appointed by the court, told us all tenders failed due to lack of offers, even if the new owner could acquire the real estate without any debts. The following attempt to sell the shopping mall might take place during mid-May of 2020. Ion Lașcu says the Chinese owners did not even appeal the decision of the Court of Law that appointed him as certified administrator. Asked if there are case files targeting the former Chinese owners, Lașcu responded that, according to him, such case files exist. Also, he said he had many meetings with the Chinese owner of Megapolis Mall and they discussed about money which Zheng Siyong cannot pay. With no result so far.

Periodically, since 2008 until appointing the state management, Shan Lian International Group was fined for not complying with the fiscal law. In 2013, the company announced that it intended to leave Moldova, because of fiscal persecutions. Shan Lian International Group claims having invested EUR 50 million in Moldova and having created over 550 jobs.

 

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