The High Court of Antigua & Barbuda has ordered that the worldwide assets of Chinese investor, Yida Zhang be frozen until he pays a judgement debt of US$5.4 million to real estate agency Lux Locations. The latest order was handed down on November 7, 2023 by Justice Andie George.
Zhang, who is the principal investor in the Antigua and Barbuda Special Economic Zone (ABSEZ), owes directors Nadia and Sam Dyson for assisting him to acquire land for the ABSEZ. The Dysons had acted as estate agents between 2013 and 2014, facilitating the purchase of 1,500 acres of land owned by Asian Village Antigua Limited, to develop parts of the controversial zone.
In 2014, a purchase of US$60 million was made by Yida International Investment Antigua Ltd. (“Yida International”). Despite the agreed-upon commission of 9%, totalling US$5.4 million, Yida International failed to make the payment to Lux Locations.
Under the latest court order, Zhang is prohibited from removing or disposing of assets in Antigua and Barbuda, up to the value of the debt. This includes assets whether they are solely or jointly owned, and even those indirectly controlled by Zhang. Any breach of this order could lead to fines, imprisonment, or asset seizure for those assisting him.
In addition, Zhang must provide Lux Locations with a detailed affidavit outlining all his worldwide assets, regardless of ownership or control. The court mandates disclosure of the assets’ value, location, and details, except where such information may incriminate him.
“The Defendant must within 14 days of the date of this Order, swear and serve on the Claimant’s Attorney-at-Law, an affidavit setting out to the best of his ability inform the Applicant’s solicitors of all his assets worldwide whether in his own name or not and whether solely or jointly owned, giving the value, location and details of all such assets.”Excerpt from November 7, 2023 court order
While the court granted permission for Zhang to spend “reasonable” sums of money each week, he must inform Lux Locations’ legal representatives of the source of any funds spent.
The high court order will persist until Zhang settles the US$5.4 million debt owed to Lux Locations. Lux Locations had previously sought to have Yida imprisoned in March for non-payment in the long-standing legal battle between the parties.
This order follows the Privy Council’s January 31, 2023, ruling, which dismissed Yida’s claim that he had not understood a 2017 court order under which he agreed to pay outstanding fees to Lux Locations. Meanwhile, the special economic zone, which was pegged to be operational by 2019, remains stalled.
Timeline of Lawsuits
2017: Initial Lawsuit and Consent Judgment
Lux Locations Limited initiates the first lawsuit against Yida Zhang. The case results in a consent judgment entered, where Zhang reportedly agrees, with the assistance of a Chinese interpreter and his lawyer, to pay Lux Locations the sum of US$3 million within 21 days. Additionally, he is to cover costs of US$300,000, along with ABST (Antigua and Barbuda Sales Tax) and interest. Although Zhang pays just over US$700,000 a few days later, he fails to fulfill the remainder, citing difficulties in transferring the outstanding payment to Antigua and Barbuda.
2018: Claim of Misunderstanding and Appeal to the Privy Council
In 2018, Yida Zhang claims he did not fully comprehend the implications of the consent order he signed the previous year. Despite his lawyers also signing on his behalf, and the execution of the consent order at the High Court of Antigua and Barbuda, Zhang asserts that his translator did not explain the document’s contents, and his legal representative did not have proper authority to act on his behalf.
2021: Lux takes Yida Zhang before Privy Council
Unsatisfied with Zhang’s explanation, Lux Locations takes the dispute to the London-based Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. In this higher court, Lux accuses Zhang of fraud and alleges that he acted with “conscious and deliberate dishonesty” to mislead the High Court of Antigua and Barbuda.