'Chinese Warren Buffett' confident of acquittal
TORONTO -- Few defendants appearing before the Ontario Superior Court would list Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping and Warren Buffett as the most influential people in their lives. But few defendants are quite like Weizhen Tang.
The Toronto businessman who immigrated to Canada from China in the early 1990s, bills himself as the "Chinese Warren Buffett" and he is something of a fixture in the Chinese Canadian community. He used his connections to build a $75-million hedge fund called Oversea Chinese Fund with roughly 200 investors from Canada, China and the United States.
According to court filings, Mr. Tang's fund ran into trouble in January, 2009, and when he allegedly couldn't demonstrate to investors how he managed their money, some went to regulators. Soon the Ontario Securities Commission closed the fund, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission launched a probe and the Toronto police issued a warrant for Mr. Tang's arrest. Mr. Tang headed for China but returned a few weeks later to face one count of criminal fraud and several charges of securities violations.
Mr. Tang, 54, hardly shrunk away. Instead he launched a public defence, denying any wrongdoing and criticizing the OSC for going after him. He ran for mayor of Toronto to further his cause and held public events to raise money for his defence. Just last week he sent out a lengthy e-book on his life story, listing the people most influential in his life.
As jury selection began Monday in his fraud trial, Mr. Tang remained as defiant as ever. "I gave everything to my investors," he said during a break. He insisted he had committed "anti-fraud" by giving money back to investors instead of taking it from them.
Mr. Tang is representing himself and addresses the court in mandarin. He sits next to an interpreter, who translates everything to the court, and a court-appointed lawyer who is serving as his legal adviser. It all makes for a ponderous proceeding. At one point during a hearing Monday on some pretrial motions, court adjourned for 30 minutes while Mr. Tang and his legal adviser, Peter Boushy, negotiated arrangements with Crown counsels Robert Gattrell and Gavin MacDonald. Mr. Tang also told the court that he will be seeking funding to allow him to translate documents into English.
The Crown is expected to call up to two dozen witnesses and plans to show the jury a secretly-recorded video of Mr. Tang making a presentation to investors. Mr. Tang said he wanted a chance to respond to the video and indicated he plans to testify. The trial is expected to last up to six weeks.
Mr. Tang has no doubt about the outcome. "I am very confident" of being found not guilty, he said with a big smile. "I am a confident guy. I know what I am doing."