(Bloomberg) — Canada’s Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland instructed three of the founding investors of Wealth One Bank of Canada to divest their stakes in the lender, Globe & Mail reported Saturday, citing documents obtained through an access to information request.
Toronto insurance executive Shenglin Xian, Vancouver property developer Morris Chen and Toronto grocery tycoon Yuansheng Ou Yang, were told in April to sell their shares in the bank, Globe reported, citing documents obtained from the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, Canada’s financial industry regulator. The investors face scrutiny from Canadian national security authorities about alleged links to the Chinese government, the newspaper said.
The finance minister ordered Wealth One to cut all ties with the three investors, and to put in place security measures to guard against money laundering and unauthorized sharing of information, according to Globe.
Globe said it couldn’t reach Ou Yang and Chen for comment. Glen Jennings, a lawyer at Gowling WLG, which is representing Xian, told Globe in a statement that his client is in regular communication with the authorities and expects a “good outcome for all stakeholders that will benefit all Canadians.” He added that matters relating to the bank are regulated and under rules of confidentiality and Xian has no comment to make at this time.
As finance minister, Freeland is empowered to act to address risks to any bank in Canada, Jessica Eritou, her senior communications adviser, told Globe. She declined to discuss the Finance Minister’s actions against Wealth One and its founders, the newspaper said.
Eritou reiterated the comments when contacted by Bloomberg. Wealth One Bank, Xian, Chen and Ou Yuang couldn’t be reached for comment outside regular business hours.
Among measures imposed on Wealth One: The lender needs to get national security vetting of all the bank’s employees, relocate its Toronto headquarters to new secure premises and sweep its corporate property for surveillance devices, the newspaper said. The institution is also prohibited from using the Chinese social-media messaging app WeChat for banking business, Globe said.
Additionally, the lender has to appoint an independent third-party monitor and hire two compliance officers: one for security compliance, with a valid national-security clearance, and one for anti-money-laundering and anti-terrorist compliance, Globe reported.