A story for the Guardian: Our partner National Post sent out the name of the building’s owner, and later received an email from “An employee of the Nevis Tenancy Co. Ltd who wishes to speak to Ms. Pevsner on our behalf.” The story went viral, and months later the investigator and E.coli were on the case, but for the duration of his time in prison, Chiu’s life was the stuff of a Hollywood blockbuster.
Seven years later, and we’re not sure what prompted this killer 80-second video: curiosity or obsession. But there’s a skill to creating something both pointless and full of dark humour. Here’s how it happened:
In May 2005, National Post reporter Lee Carter sought to determine the identity of the owner of a mysterious corporate location in Toronto. In tracing this company to a Nevis address, which he found via the Society of Petroleum Engineers’ Canadian Club annual meeting directory, Carter discovered the land was owned by a real estate developer named Huang Pei Qin, and wondered if anyone else had a secret office building in the English-speaking Caribbean.
But the most interesting part of the story for Carter was what he discovered in a real estate agent’s notebook: a fake document signed in the signature line by a double. To the real estate agent’s chagrin, the signature was very similar to Chiu’s in print, and Carter recognized it was a fakesu where Chiu’s signature had been traced back to the real estate agency, which gave investigators documents and bank statements supporting Chiu’s place of residence.
Confronted with an incredible series of facts, an accountant, who wasn’t involved in the case, had a hard time making sense of it all.
“There were so many pieces of paper that were written by an accountant at a law firm,” Wayne Delaney, a local businessman and friend of Chiu’s, told the National Post in May 2005. “And all these bits of paper that just came off the top of the office. It just doesn’t add up, doesn’t make sense.”
The Canadian shell company, Nevis Tenancy Co. Ltd, was born out of intrigue. Investigators from the finance ministry found the company’s address was off the map, the law firm providing the fraudulent documents was closed down, and Chiu’s name was included in the year of incorporation.
“This is an entirely new area of law enforcement,” Bill Armstrong, chief inspector for the RCMP’s Criminal Investigation Branch in Nevis, told the Toronto Star at the time. “We have to learn how to use modern technology to deal with this type of investigation. We haven’t seen this before and it’s a big problem.”
Chiu was arrested that November of that year, after more than 10 years on the run, and sentenced to six years in prison. But the discovery of Chiu in prison was just one of a number of stunning revelations about the inner workings of the kingdom’s financial underworld.
It would have been difficult to have imagined how unlikely Chiu’s real-estate company and its anonymous owner would have been to be apprehended had the paper trail of counterfeit documents and real estate partnerships written by an accountant not been so difficult to sift through. Only months before Chiu was hauled into court, an officer caught four foreigners using the same fake Canadian incorporation records at the same address, according to the Canadian Press.