Weizhen Tang’s battle against the Ontario Securities Commission and the justice system came to a halt Tuesday when a jury convicted him of fraud.
The Toronto businessman, who bills himself as the “Chinese Warren Buffett,” had been railing against regulators and prosecutors since 2009, when the OSC shut his investment fund after complaints by investors. The commission alleged Mr. Tang had misappropriated more than $20-million; a criminal charge of fraud followed shortly afterward.
Mr. Tang went on the offensive, taking to the Internet, e-mail and Twitter to criticize and mock the OSC. He ran for mayor of Toronto in 2010 on a platform that consisted in part of attacking the commission. When his trial in the Ontario Court of Justice began in September, he represented himself and continued the barrage against regulators, offering comments and thoughts through a blog and e-mail during the 50-day trial.
He testified as well, telling jurors about growing up in a small village in China and coming to Canada in 1988 to study biology at Ontario’s University of Waterloo. He told them about his early fascination with investing and how he earned a 40-per-cent return in his first year trading mutual funds.
By the early 1990s, Mr. Tang had become something of a sensation in the Chinese community across Canada, attracting hundreds of clients to his Chinese Overseas Investment fund and giving countless presentations on his book, The Chinese Warren Buffett. The King of 1% Weekly Returns. His fame became large enough that he attracted the attention of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service in 2008 after he organized a large pro-China rally.
In his closing argument this week, Mr. Tang kept up his assault, telling jurors that the OSC was out to get him because of his popularity and that he had done nothing wrong by using money from new investors to cover losses of other investors, as the OSC alleged. The OSC, he said, “has become the enemy of small business and individual investors.”
At times he compared himself with investor George Soros and even Martin Luther. He acknowledged in court that he updated his blog almost daily, offering commentary on his trial to roughly 2,000 subscribers. And he chatted regularly with several members of the Chinese-language media who covered the trial daily.
The jury deliberated only four hours Tuesday before rendering its guilty verdict. Few observers were surprised. Witness after witness had testified about how they had been misled by Mr. Tang, and he gave rambling answers to questions from Crown prosecutors, saying at one point that account statements sent to investors were not falsified but were actually promises of what he intended to accomplish.
Mr. Tang remained defiant to the end. Shortly after being found guilty, he told Mr. Justice Justice Alfred O’Marra that he had been treated unfairly. “I think something is very wrong,” he told the judge during a hearing on his bail conditions. “When the court found me guilty, it’s very hard for me to understand.” He said he has been wiped out financially and is on the verge of losing his home.
At one point during the bail hearing Peter Boushy, a lawyer appointed to assist Mr. Tang, pointedly told him: “You are going to be sentenced to jail.” Mr. Tang looked at him blankly and replied: “Okay.”
Mr. Tang, 54, will be sentenced later this month and faces a maximum of 14 years in prison. He is likely to receive less than five, according to a lawyer close to the case.