Campfire’s Wang Tse, Mom Jailed in Hong Kong Mall Deal Fraud

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Greenview Court Shopping Centre

The partners ended up terminating their 2019 deal to buy Greenview Court Shopping Centre

A co-founder of defunct Hong Kong co-working operator Campfire and his mother have each been sentenced to 30 months in prison for duping a business partner into paying a bogus commission fee on the acquisition of a Tsuen Wan community mall.

In handing down the sentences on Wednesday, a deputy judge ruled that 39-year-old Tse Yiu-sing, also known as Wang Tse, and 68-year-old Sin Yuk-ling acted out of greed when they conspired to defraud their investment partner, according to a statement by the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Under the terms of the deal, which was never completed, Sin and the investment partner had set up a 55:45 joint venture in 2019 to buy the three-storey Greenview Court Shopping Centre on Castle Peak Road in Tsuen Wan West for HK$168 million ($21.5 million). The partner, identified in a 2019 Mingtiandi report as Michael Tsang, a former executive with local investment firm Sunlink, was to pay HK$750,000 to local agency Midland as his share of a 1 percent commission fee.

In response to a corruption complaint, an ICAC probe found that a company controlled by Tse had made an agreement with Midland through Sin to cooperate in procuring the transaction, with Midland retaining 20 percent of the agency commission. The remaining 80 percent would be paid to Tse’s company, known as Landcorp.

“However, Tse and Sin concealed from the investment partner the agreement, with intent to induce the investment partner to pay HK$750,000 agency commission and to obtain the percentage of agency commission Landcorp (was) entitled to receive,” the ICAC said.

Level Playing Field

Deputy Judge Kenneth Chan said Wednesday that the mother-son duo’s deterrent sentences were “inevitable” given the responsibility of the district court to maintain a level playing field for businesses in Hong Kong.

Campfire co-founder Wang Tse

Campfire co-founder Wang Tse in happier times

Greenview Court Shopping Centre is part of the 1980s-era Greenview Court residential complex developed by Li Ka-shing’s Cheung Kong Holdings. At the time of the ill-fated purchase deal, the 39,806 square foot (3,698 square metre) community mall was owned by a Buddhist monk who had bought the property for HK$49 million in 2012 with plans to convert it into a temple.

“It’s an asset that had been on our radar for a long time,” Tse told Mingtiandi in 2019.

Tse and Tsang had intended to upgrade the commercial property, which was overgrown with foliage after years of neglect. With the mall’s accessibility falling below modern standards, the pair had planned a complete overhaul of the mall’s entrances and exit routes to accommodate people with mobility challenges.

“The mall’s shortcomings, including the former landlord’s lack of direction, have hindered its success previously, and we want to relieve it of all the things that were restricting it in the past,” Tse said then.

Dabbling on Hold

The Campfire shared space brand boasted 10 locations in 2019, including one in London’s trendy Shoreditch, but the chain went out of business during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Tse left Campfire in 2021 but continues to serve as a director at Thai real estate firm Country Group Development. He is not listed among Country Group’s board members on the company website.

Tse has also dabbled in other ventures such as co-founding the Avendale International Kindergarten in the New Territories’ Tseung Kwan O neighbourhood.

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