The MAN who is a major player in a multinational fishing company with a history of dodgy practices in the Cook Islands and elsewhere was behind the $300,000 “loan” to former minister of the Crown Teina Bishop, appears to still be in the government’s good books.
Zhou Xindong, also known as Sam Chou is a senior executive in Luen Thai International Group a worldwide fishing company which owns China Southern Fishery, which in turn owns Huanan Fishery Cook Islands Company Ltd.
Chou is reported to have been Luen Thai’s chief operating officer since 2007.
Huanan Fishery owns 29 Cook Islands foreign long-lining fishing licenses, over half of the supposed limit of 40. The cap was raised to 50 in June 2012 to accommodate the extra licenses given to Luen Thai under Bishop’s tenure as Marine Resources minister. Eight of those licenses were found to have been corruptly issued by Bishop in exchange for the Chou-arranged “loan”.
Sam Chou was described during Bishop’s 13-day trial as someone who actively sought favours and had asked Bishop for an extra 12 long -lining licenses.
Deputy prime minister Teariki Health and Justice minister Nandi Glassie were recently in China on a trip fully funded by the Guangdong Province government.
Sam Chou is pictured with other Chinese officials and the cabinet ministers in an official photograph published in CI News. It has been reported the DPM’s discussions in China also centred on fisheries.
Questions are being asked why cabinet ministers are holding discussions in China with a businessman who had a critical role in the downfall of a Cook Islands member of Parliament: the High Court determined Sam Chou arranged the $300,000 bribe to Bishop in exchange for fishing licenses.
Comments have been made that DPM Heather as Police minister, should be maintaining a distance from the company executive to protect the integrity of his position and that of the government.
But DPM Heather’s chief executive, Ben Mose makes assurances that nothing unusual happened during the exchanges and cooperation between the Cook Islands and Zhuhai City vice-mayor Long Guangyan.
He says at no time did the DPM did have any discussions with Chou.
“As you are well aware how the Chinese conduct their meetings, only one spoke and that is the Head of Delegation for the Cook Islands, DPM Hon Teariki Heather and the (Chinese) vice-mayor.”
Others “across the table during the discussions” included Huang Fuxiong China Southern Fisheries board chairman and President of Guangdong Overseas Fisheries Association; the deputy director of Zhuhai Ocean, Agriculture and Fisheries Bureau Yan Jinqian and Wu Xiangming, deputy director of Zhuhai Culture, Sports and Tourism Bureau.
Sam Chou is named as Zhou Xindong in the official list with the title of Chairman of the Board, Liancheng Overseas Fisheries.
Liancheng Overseas Fishery (Shenzhen) Co Ltd is described online as specialising in integrated offshore fishing. Business operations range from offshore fishery, domestic trade, supplying fish material and other fishery materials, and export and import of aquatic products. There is no mention of his position in Luen Thai which partnered with Liancheng some years ago.
Because former minister Bishop was convicted of taking a bribe, a legal source believes it is logical that police will be looking at whether the person paying the bribe should also be charged.
Police here are understood to be reviewing charges against the Chinese fishing company executive but will not confirm this. The charges could possibly be in connection with corrupting a public official through bribery under the Cook Islands Crimes Act.
Questions sent to Detective Inspector Areumu Ingaua received a terse, “As you are aware, this matter is now before the Court of Appeal. We will therefore not be making any comment or statement on this matter or any other allegations associated with it.”
It is not clear how Bishop’s appeal against his sentence would have any connection to Sam Chou’s actions that led to the former cabinet minister being found guilty of corruption – accepting money offered by the Chinese businessman as a type of “loan”.
The Cook Islands Crimes Act relating to corruption and bribery of a minister of the Crown states: “Every Minister of the Crown or member of the Executive Council is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years who corruptly accepts or obtains, or agrees or offers to accept or attempts to obtain, any bribe for himself or any other person in respect of any act done or omitted, or to be done or omitted, by him in his capacity as a Minister or member of the Executive Council. “
In addition, the Crimes Act states, “Everyone is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years who corruptly gives or offers or agrees to give any bribe to any person with intent to influence any Minister of the Crown or member of the Executive Council in respect of any act or omission by him in his capacity as a Minister or member of the Executive Council.”