A Toronto money manager who is facing a Canada-wide arrest warrant for operating a Ponzi scheme says he has travelled to China "to make money" because he has been banned from trading by Canadian regulators.
Toronto police announced Wednesday they have obtained a warrant for Weizhen Tang, 51, who has dubbed himself both a "Chinese Warren Buffett" and a "Chinese Donald Trump." Police allege he masterminded a Ponzi scheme that cost victims $30-million.
Detective Gail Regan said Mr. Tang had been expected to turn himself in to police on Dec. 29, but did not show up and now cannot be located. "Apparently he's out of the country, possibly in China," Det. Regan said.
Police are seeking the public's assistance in locating Mr. Tang and released a photograph of him Wednesday. Also Wednesday, the Ontario Securities Commission warned investors that Mr. Tang may be soliciting Ontario residents for investment purposes, noting he remains under an order not to trade securities.
In an e-mail exchange Wednesday, Mr. Tang said he is in "China and Asia" and is working to make back the money lost by people who invested in his Oversea Chinese Fund LP.
"I have nothing to do with fraud, and I am not hiding from anybody," Mr. Tang wrote.
"I told my lawyer I will be back to my hearing on February [sic]and use the break to make money since the OSC ban me from trading."
He added the Toronto police know he is in China. He said he left the country on Nov. 17, before an arrest warrant was issued, so he was free to travel.
Mr. Tang's alleged disappearance was somewhat surprising considering the high profile he has maintained since allegations of fraud were first levelled by regulators last spring.
He appeared on television several times last year to defend himself, and has authored blog postings about his legal issues. He has also e-mailed a number of reporters about his case, and issued a press release on Nov. 3 announcing he was filing an application with the OSC to win the right to trade securities for 42 clients.
In a Dec. 10 decision rejecting Mr. Tang's application, an OSC hearing panel said Mr. Tang has acknowledged to commission staff that he failed to disclose investment losses to investors and created false account statements that significantly inflated their investment values. He also admitted all investors' funds "have been dissipated" and no money is left.
Mr. Tang has repeatedly said he ran a legitimate investment operation and did not take any investors' money for himself.
In his last blog posting on Dec. 5, Mr. Tang said his investing approach is "contrarian" and said investors "love what I think and proposed and did." He also said he "put investors interest first."
Mr. Tang began investing money for friends and relatives in the mid-1990s after arriving in Canada from China, and founded Oversea Chinese Fund in 2001. He became a fixture in Toronto's Chinese community, donating money to various causes and sponsoring events such as Chinese New Year festivals.
But Oversea Chinese Fund appeared to run out of cash last spring, and regulators undertook investigations after some investors began to demand their money back.
In addition to the fraud charge filed by Toronto police, the OSC filed quasi-criminal charges against Mr. Tang in Provincial Court in June, including a charge of securities fraud. A trial is scheduled to begin April 19 in the matter. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission also filed fraud charges against him in Dallas. Mr. Tang settled that case last summer without admitting or denying the SEC claims.