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Judge postpones sentencing of ‘Chinese Warren Buffett’

Weizhen Tang, who once billed himself as the Chinese Warren Buffett, is seen in this file photo.

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

An Ontario judge adjourned a sentencing hearing after convicted fraudster Weizhen Tang launched a diatribe against the justice system during closing remarks in the case, accusing the Crown and the judge of misconduct and corruption.

Mr. Tang, who has called himself a "Chinese Warren Buffett," accused Mr. Justice Alfred O'Marra of the Ontario Superior Court of abusing his power. Mr. Tang distributed written remarks in which he expressed no remorse and alleged that the Crown had fabricated evidence and lied in court to persecute him and earn a large salary.

"The judges are dictator and biased and corrupted," Mr. Tang said in broken English in his written comments.

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Judge O'Marra stopped Mr. Tang before he could read most of his accusations aloud in court, saying his remarks were irrelevant to sentencing in the case. He told Mr. Tang to rethink his statement and return to court Friday ready to comment on specific issues related to sentencing.

"I'm not going to sit here and have you disparage the judicial system through which we operate," Judge O'Marra said.

Mr. Tang, 54, was convicted in October after Judge O'Marra ruled he fraudulently raised more than $50-million from 200 investors through his investment firm Oversea Chinese Fund LP. The company was shut down in 2009 after investors complained to the Ontario Securities Commission.

At the time, the company had just $1,000 left in its accounts – a far cry from the $70-million Mr. Tang had reported to investors a month earlier, and far less than was reported to investors in false account statements.

While some of the funds he raised were repaid to investors, the Crown alleged at least $19-million of the money was lost in the market and $2.8-million was funnelled into personal accounts held by Mr. Tang and his family.

The Crown is seeking a jail sentence of eight to 10 years in the case, and has also asked Judge O'Marra to order a fine of $2.8-million to recover money he personally took. Crown attorney Gavin McDonald said Wednesday he has also received applications from 19 investors seeking $5.4-million in restitution for their losses, and has asked the judge to approve their claims.

Mr. Tang, who is representing himself in court but is being assisted by a court-appointed lawyer, has asked for no restitution to be awarded because he cannot pay it.

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In testimony Wednesday, he told the court he is destitute, and hasn't worked in four years. He is living on welfare and the bank has foreclosed on his house and is going to auction it. He also said his daughter, who works as a securities trader in Hong Kong, is paying at least half his monthly bills, but he could not afford to hire a lawyer to help him defend himself at his trial last fall.

"The Crown has destroyed my reputation and I can't get help from friends and investors," he testified through a translator.

Mr. Tang has repeatedly maintained his innocence, saying he had had no intention of defrauding anyone and suffered trading losses owing to the sharp downturn in financial markets in early 2009.

Victim impact statements provided to the court revealed investors pledged their life savings, took out loans and mortgaged their homes to raise money to invest with Mr. Tang, lured by the promise of high returns.

Victims said they were left destitute, suffered from depression and faced strains in their marriages. One woman said that after the fund collapsed all she could think about was "how to die" so her family could collect her life insurance.

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About the Author
Real Estate Reporter

Janet McFarland is the real estate reporter for The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business, with a focus on residential real estate trends. She joined Report on Business in 1995, and has specialized in reporting on corporate governance, executive compensation, pension policy, business law, securities regulation and enforcement of white-collar crime. More

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