A Story of Homicide, Revenge and a Canadian Immigrant Dream Gone Fallacious


VANCOUVER, British Columbia — After he had chopped up the physique into 108 items and brought an extended nap, Zhao Li cooked himself some noodles for breakfast.

He by no means ate them.

As an alternative, Mr. Zhao, a soft-spoken Chinese language immigrant, discovered himself surrounded by a SWAT workforce that had been surveilling the imposing $eight million hillside mansion owned by the sufferer, Mr. Zhao’s cousin by marriage.

The police had been discreetly watching Mr. Zhao by means of the massive floor-to-ceiling home windows as he calmly washed blood from a looking knife, in accordance with investigators.

These had been a few of the particulars that emerged throughout lurid testimony supplied just lately in Mr. Zhao’s trial for homicide on the Supreme Court docket of British Columbia.

The case has riveted Vancouver — and attracted headlines in Canada and China — by exposing a wrenching human drama of household ties gone rancid, revenge and violence. But it surely additionally pulls collectively many strands of the latest modifications which have come to Vancouver.

Town, recognized for its gorgeous nature and outdoorsy cannabis-fueled tradition, has been reworked by an inflow of rich second-generation Chinese language, lots of whom have invested closely in property and consider a Canadian passport as a gateway to a glittering and higher life.

The sufferer, Yuan Gang, was a millionaire who gamed the Canadian immigration system — a observe the authorities have been making an attempt to stamp out, together with in a latest fraud case involving a whole bunch of rich Chinese language immigrants who used pretend paperwork to acquire Canadian citizenship or everlasting residency whereas dwelling in China.

The accused killer, Mr. Zhao, was his poorer aspirational cousin, who had come to Canada along with his household, hoping for a greater life.

Additionally figuring within the story is Mr. Zhao’s 26-year-old daughter, who discovered fame as a glamorous YouTube movie star and emblem of moneyed Chinese language newcomers dwelling a bling bling way of life in Canada.

“It’s a story about greed, materialism and the corruptibility of cash,” stated Chris Johnson, a veteran Vancouver prison lawyer who represented the sufferer’s household.

“Everybody desires to know why Zhao Li did what he did,” added Richard Li, a author for Xing Tao, a well-liked native Chinese language language newspaper in Vancouver.

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The sufferer, Mr. Yuan, who died a couple of weeks earlier than his 42nd birthday, was born in Heilongjiang, a northeastern province in China. He drew on household wealth to spend money on coal manufacturing, and shortly expanded the enterprise.

In 2015 he was implicated in a corruption case in China, accused in a court docket judgment of bribing a senior communist official. However by then he had already moved to Canada, having married a Canadian-Chinese language girl in September 2005 who sponsored him to return to Vancouver.

He divorced her in 2007, two months after gaining everlasting residency. A Vancouver court docket later characterised the wedding as immigration fraud.

Mr. Yuan spent about $35 million Canadian on property and land investments in British Columbia and Saskatchewan. And he collected the glittering trophies beloved of the rising class of fuerdai, a Mandarin expression that refers to rich second-generation Chinese language.

He acquired the $eight million mansion at 963 King George’s Method in British Properties, essentially the most unique mountainside enclave in Vancouver, paying for a big a part of it in money. He put in a stuffed black panther posing on a rock within the grand entrance.

He additionally used money to purchase a stately 10-bedroom Tudor revival residence with beautiful gardens valued at about $17 million in Shaughnessy, an outdated moneyed neighborhood thought-about Vancouver’s most fascinating handle.

Mr. Yuan bought a Bentley and a Rolls-Royce price greater than $250,000. He additionally acquired a $2 million non-public island, Pym Island, close to Victoria Island, and an Azimut yacht, each of which he put in his mom’s title.

To keep away from taxes on the sale of a second residence, Mr. Yuan didn’t wish to have all of his belongings in his title, his household associates stated in interviews.

In 2010, he invited his poorer cousin, Li Xiaomei; her husband, Mr. Zhao; and their teenage daughter, Florence, to return stay with him. Mr. Zhao labored in his companies and Ms. Li helped with bookkeeping and cooking.

A meek man barely over 5 toes tall, Mr. Zhao’s life was ripped aside at age 9 when his father was branded a counterrevolutionary in China, and despatched to a labor camp. He was mercilessly bullied in school. “I felt that life was hopeless,” he testified throughout his homicide trial.

However his fortunes modified after he bought married and began a profitable printing firm.

In 2007, the household moved to Montreal, with the everyday ambitions of financial migrants to Canada. When their cousin invited them to Vancouver, providing on the spot upward mobility, they didn’t hesitate. They moved into the King George’s Method mansion.

It was not lengthy earlier than issues started to bitter, in accordance with individuals who know the household.

Mr. Yuan’s companies in China started faltering, and he resented supporting the Zhao household. And Mr. Zhao started bullying workers in Mr. Yuan’s companies in Canada, former workers stated.

Mr. Zhao’s daughter, Florence, although, discovered a brand new form of prosperity in Canada as “Flo-Z,” an aspiring designer. At 26, she starred in a well-liked actuality present on YouTube, “Extremely Wealthy Asian Ladies,” which gained a cult following in Vancouver and in elements of Asia.

The present, a tribute to the approach to life of ultra-wealthy Chinese language dwelling in Vancouver, featured 4 younger ladies, together with Ms. Zhao and a Taiwanese shop-a-holic, CocoParis, who variously sip costly Pomorol wine from straws, go on buying sprees in Venice and focus on the relative virtues of getting a wealthy ugly boyfriend or a good-looking poor one.

“We aren’t limiting ourselves to different peoples’ requirements and we glance wonderful whereas doing it,” Ms. Zhao brags on the present.

In a single episode, Ms. Zhao, who didn’t reply to requests for an interview, was filmed exercising subsequent to an outside pool on the mansion the place Mr. Yuan was later killed.

Mates stated she instructed them that Mr. Yuan, whom she known as “uncle,” was a creepy womanizer and that she was afraid to be alone with him. Kevin Li, a producer of the present, stated she instructed him she studiously averted her uncle, saying he had “dangerous vibes.”

On a sunny Saturday in Might 2015, Mr. Yuan and Mr. Zhao had their last disagreement, when Mr. Yuan instructed his cousin he needed to marry Ms. Zhao.

Her father was irate. “You’re worse than a beast, worse than a pig or a canine,” he instructed his cousin, in accordance with Mr. Zhao’s testimony at his homicide trial.

Mr. Zhao stated Mr. Yuan grew to become livid and hit him with a hammer. Mr. Zhao then shot him twice, in accordance with court docket testimony. He then set about chopping up the physique.

“I heard somebody speaking to me a couple of bear and how you can lower up a bear,” he testified.

His lawyer argued that Mr. Zhao, incensed by his cousin’s proposal that he marry Ms. Zhao, had been provoked, and thus was responsible of manslaughter, which carries no minimal sentence, relatively than homicide, for which he might face life in jail.

However Mr. Johnson, the sufferer’s household lawyer, stated Mr. Zhao was offended as a result of his cousin was within the means of promoting his Saskatchewan farm holdings and had lower him out of the deal.

As proof, he identified that two days after the killing, Mr. Zhao’s spouse, Li Xiaomei, who helped handle Mr. Yuan’s accounts, transferred $2 million into her personal checking account. She has been charged with theft and is awaiting trial.

A verdict within the homicide trial is predicted within the coming months.

After the publicity generated by the killing, seven ladies from China got here ahead claiming that their kids deserved a part of the sufferer’s roughly $21 million Canadian property.

After a high-profile civil case, throughout which it emerged that Mr. Yuan had as many as 100 girlfriends, a Canadian decide dominated that his property ought to be divided amongst 5 kids who proved to be DNA matches for him.

On the mansion the place he was killed, an actual property agent, looking for to downplay the home’s bloody historical past, coated the unique 963 handle with a sticker that claims 961. On a latest day it was pouring rain and the mail field was bursting with unopened utility payments addressed to Zhao Li.

The home has since been offered to an Iranian household.

“No Chinese language individuals wish to stay right here as a result of they know what occurred,” Mr. Johnson defined. “They suppose it could carry dangerous luck.”

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