[Samoa Observer] PM downplays investigation in China
MONDAY, 06 MAY 2013 08:08
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi is unfazed by reports that the Chairman of the Chengdu Exhibition and Travel Group (ETG), who signed an MOU with Samoa to build a 500-room resort and a casino, is in custody in Beijing China.
Asked for a comment, Tuilaepa said there was nothing to be alarmed about.
“It doesn’t really matter if one person goes,” said the Prime Minister. “ETG will still have a new Chairman and so as far as we are concerned, nothing has changed.
“That’s how the world operates. Organizations continue; that’s why they are called a growing concern.”
Deng Hong, who has reportedly been in custody since March 2013, is being investigated over corruption linked to land deals, by the Communist Party anti corruption officials, according to a Caixin Online report of April 14.
Tuilaepa, Samoa’s Ambassador to China, Tapusalaia Terry To’omata and officials from Samoa visited the ETG Company’s Head Office in Chengdu, China in May 2012. Discussions centred on the building of a 500-room hotel resort project in Samoa to be managed by Intercontinental Hotels Inc.
The Prime Minister and the Chairman of ETG, Deng Hong then signed an MOU during the visit to facilitate the implementation of the project. Ambassador To’omata visited Samoa with a team from ETG in April prior to the Prime Minister’s visit to Chengdu.
In June, ETG Chairman Deng, the Chengdu Exim Bank President and officials of ETG returned to Samoa for site visits, following a visit to Yap in Micronesia, where ETG is also planning another resort.
On the Samoa Embassy website in Beijing the report said “The proposed project would be a huge boost for Samoa’s tourism especially in targeting Chinas growing outbound tourism as well as nearby markets such as Australia and New Zealand.”
Earlier this year, the Government granted ETG one of two licenses to operate a Casino in Samoa. The other license was given to Aggie Grey’s Resort in Mulifanua.
Pressed about the future of the company and the casino plans, Tuilaepa said “people can go wrong but the organisation still lives on.”
Asked to elaborate, he said; “That’s the definition of an ongoing business, an entity goes on.”
Tuilaepa said that contrary to reports, Mr. Hong was arrested in relation to “investments in Yap.”
“My information is that it’s to do with Yap, so you cannot say that it’s an investment in Samoa, it’s in connection with Yap,” he said.
“What I gather also is that it’s to do with competition over business rights with another big company. It’s not anything to do with Samoa.”
Asked whether the incident highlights the need for Samoa to tighten its rules surrounding foreign investors, Tuilaepa said; “We always do.”
“There are many times we get clearance but of course it does not mean that the project will go on.
“People can come in and everything appears ok but you can never tell [what might happen] regardless of all the checks.”
The Prime Minister did not say when or where the project is likely to be located.
“When a decision has been made, we will let you know,” he said.
Earlier media reports in Caixin Online had said Deng was questioned in December by anti-corruption officials in connection with an investigation into Li Chuncheng, the former mayor of Chengdu.
The inquiry into Li regarded “a serious violation of the law,” the party’s Central Discipline Inspection Commission said on December 6.
“Last time (Deng) was asked to assist in the investigation, but this time he is the target,” the source close to the investigation said.
Deng has been in custody since early March, the source said. His last public appearance was on February 19, when he met officials from Shanghai in Chengdu.
Deng is a well-known businessman in Sichuan who operates a wide range of exhibition and property projects across the southwestern province. He is known to enjoy close ties to local officials. “Deng has lots of government support, but he is also very talented in doing business,” a Chengdu businessman said.
Deng, who was born in 1963, spent eight years in military. In 1985, he left the military and started his own business. Caixin has learned that the property business he started in late 1990s and all of his current projects involve the local government.