HomeLocalNews in depth: Secret grave exposes Chinese ‘cartel's’ identity fraud scam, fraudulent...

News in depth: Secret grave exposes Chinese ‘cartel’s’ identity fraud scam, fraudulent schemes

BY TANGAI CHIPANGURA
In a case pregnant with intrigue, bizarre episodes and curious developments involving what appears to be a sophisticated criminal Chinese cartel, the Registrar General’s office was forced to cancel a burial order, death certificate and identity documents for a deceased Chinese national following the detection of identity fraud.

The developments followed the death of the suspected Chinese cartel  member Zhaoxi Wu who was using forged identity documents while living in Zimbabwe.

His wife Yan Yu was now allegedly seeking to fraudulently register the estate of a living person whom her husband had been impersonating.

The late Zhaoxi arrived in Zimbabwe in the late 1990s and fraudulently obtained identity and travel documents in the name of Zhaosheng Wu who happens to be his brother and with whom he was involved in reportedly shady business deals.

The identity scam, according to victims of their alleged con-artistry, was designed to facilitate and conceal their crimes.

The brothers are said to be on the wanted list of many countries around the globe.

Most of the cartel’s assets including mines, swathes of prime land in Harare and elsewhere across the country, huge interests in tourism and hospitality, among other properties are registered in Zhaosheng’s name.

This is the estate that Yan is seeking to register as her late husband’s estate.

The protracted legal battle pitting Yan and a group of Zimbabwean businessmen led by Washington Frera and Vincent Tom Baris, who claim to be victims of the Chinese cartel and which battle has become a common feature at the courts, has opened a can of worms.

Information that has been presented to the courts in this battle exposed the many fraudulent activities, dirty schemes and involvement of government officials which, among other shocking criminal acts, led to the secretive burial of the late Zhaoxi at some farm in Chegutu where the grave has been marked under a different name.

It took the involvement of the President’s Office to locate the grave and there are reportedly ongoing efforts to have the body in that grave exhumed for further identity verification.

Latest in the legal battle is a June 22, 2022 Supreme Court application for leave to appeal against a High Court judgment that was passed on June 6 2022, which overturned an earlier magistrates court ruling acquitting the Zimbabwean businessmen of fraud and forgery charges pressed against them by Yan.

Yan is the appellant in the High Court case, which has found the Zimbabwean businessmen guilty of fraud and forging signatures to documents that seek to change ownership of some prime land in Waterfalls, Harare from Yan through inheritance of her husband Zhaosheng’s estate.

The basis of the businessmen’s appeal to the Supreme Court, however, is Yan’s alleged fraudulent claim to the estate.

While she claims in various court hearings and through sworn affidavits that she is Zhaosheng’s wife and that her husband is dead, it has been proven that in fact Yan’s husband is actually Zhaoxi.

The Chinese embassy and Zimbabwean authorities have confirmed that Yan’s claims are false and that in fact, Zhaosheng is alive in China and that Yan’s husband, Zhaoxi  is the one who died in Zimbabwe in 2017.

Details of the various court proceedings in which Yan purports to be the wife of Zhaosheng whom she also claims is dead is a story for another day.

The widow Yan Yu

Several months investigations by The Standard revealed how the RG’s office was duped into issuing a passport and national identity document to Zhaoxi in the name of Zhaosheng and also how, after his death, Zhaoxi’s wife Yan managed to fraudulently obtain a death certificate and burial order for her husband Zhaoxi  in the name of Zhaosheng, who is alive.

The mystery deepened as our investigations took us to a lone grave in the middle of a remote farm in Chegutu where Zhaoxi aka Zhaosheng W was buried under another different name.

According to documents in our possession, a communication between the RG’s Office and the President’s Office dated January 18 2022, the Foreign Affairs ministry and the Chinese embassy were involved in the issuance of the burial order for Zhaoxi’s body under the false identity Zhaosheng.

Upon unearthing the identity scam when issues of the deceased’s estate arose with Yan claiming that she was “the late Zhaosheng’s widow” the President’s Office immediately wrote to the RG’s requesting the cancellation of the burial order and identity documents for Zhaosheng as they were products of fraud.

Part of the response by the RG to this request reads: “He (Zhaoxi Wu) used this identity document and name Zhaosheng Wu until his death on 04 June 2017.

“On 07 July 2017 the permanent secretary of Foreign Affairs wrote to the chief director of Immigration on behalf of the Chinese embassy requesting for the burial order for Zhaosheng Wu.

“However, the identity of the deceased was queried and on June 8 2017, the secretary for Foreign Affairs again wrote to the chief director of Immigration requesting for assistance to have DNA samples extracted from the deceased for identity verification and assistance with the burial order or repatriation, depending on the outcome of the identity verification.

“Meanwhile, correspondence from the Chinese embassy and the chief director of Immigration both requested the issuance of the burial order under the identities previously given, ie Zhaosheng Wu.

“This paved way for the issuance of the burial order by the Registrar General on 08 August 2017.

“The burial order was issued at Parirenyatwa Hospital Sub-Office.”

As a result Zhaoxi Wu was buried as Zhaosheng Wu at Tiverton Farm in Chegutu which is registered under the later’s name.

The registrar general further wrote: “On 31 January 2018 the Chinese embassy wrote to Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirming that the so-called Zhaosheng Wu who had died in Harare was actually Zhaoxi Wu and the two were “actually brothers”.

“Zhaosheng Wu was in China at the time of his brother’s death.

“The Chinese embassy further requested through the Minsitry of Foreign Affairs that the death certificate of the deceased be produced in the name of Zhaoxi Wu….

“This explains why the burial order bears the name Zhaosheng and the death certificate is in the name Zhaoxi.

“The burial order however should have been returned to the issuing office soon after burial. This was not done.

At the time of his death Zhaoxi  was married to Yan and she was the one who was issued with the burial order as the closest relative to the deceased.

In an interview recently, one of the Zimbabwean businessmen Tom-Baris told The Standard that they believed there was deliberate and criminal intent by Yan to misrepresent her dead husband as Zhaosheng.

The plan, he said, was to fraudulently claim the many assets owned by Zhaosheng whom she falsely claimed was her deceased husband.

The Waterfalls property in Harare which is at the centre of the court battle is one of the target assets which Tom-Baris and his partners say was bought by their company in a transaction involving a gold mine in Bindura.

Tom-Baris cited the false claims by Yan that her husband was Zhaosheng and her “fraudulent attempts” to register  Zhaosheng’s  estate as the bona fide widow, as evidence of her “deceptive and unreliable character”.

“Instead of dragging us to the courts, Yan should be arrested on sight for the many criminal actions that she stands guilty of,” he said.

“On her apparent admission, she connived with her late husband to obtain false identity documents for him, then she proceeded to apply for a burial order for her husband Zhaoxi Wu under a false identity,before illegally keeping the burial order and using it to dupe the Master of the High Court into registering Zhaosheng’s estate and making her the executor.

“That alone warrants her immediate arrest and deportation,” Tom-Baris fumed.

“She even registered her own two children with Zhaoxi Wu as Zhaosheng Wu’s children as a way to fraudulently make them heirs to the estate of a person who is still alive,” said Tom-Baris adding that the courts would eventually vindicate him.

Contacted for comment last week, Yan dismissed claims by Tom-Baris and his colleagues saying she was being victimised because she was a vulnerable widow who did not have protection.

She insisted she was innocent and that the June 4 High Court order overturning the lower court ruling vindicated her.

She refused to respond to allegations of her colluding in the fraudulent registration of a Zimbabwean identity document by her husband as Zhaosheng and her providing this false information in the death notice following the demise of her husband Zhaoxi.

“If you perused the court records then it means you already know my side of the story,” Yan said.

“You have the full story already. I have nothing to add or subtract from what is already on record.

“If you are a professional reporter who is there to report facts as they are you already know and you need not ask for my side of the story.”

Evidence at hand, however, further confirms that Yan registered Zhaosheng’s estate under DR 1561/17 proclaiming herself as the widow of the deceased and thereby fraudulently obtaining letters of administration of the ‘deceased’ person under her name when in fact Zhaosheng is alive.

She also registered her own two children with her husband Zhaoxi as heirs to Zhaosheng’s estate.

The master of the High Court has, however, since cancelled the estate after realising the fraudulent nature of documents deposited with them.

The deputy master of the High Court, K.F Chigomararwa wrote to Tom-Baris confirming they had since received confirmation from the RG’s office indicating that the death certificate and other documents issued in respect of Zhaosheng had been cancelled on August 3 2018 “after it was discovered that the so-called Zhaosheng was an imposter and the Zimbabwean identity documents had been fraudulently acquired”.

The letter written on April 2022, copy of which is with The Standard reads: “It is, therefore, against this background that we have taken a position to cancel the registration of the deceased estate from our register.

“Accordingly, it follows that all proceedings to do with the administration of the estate have been set aside and letters of appointment issued in favour of Yan Yu as the executrix dative have been revoked.

“The whole process has been rendered invalid and the record is recorded as closed.”

  • Feedback: tchipangura@standard.co.zw

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