Australia orders sale of $30 mln mansion bought “illegally” by Chinese firm

SYDNEY, (Reuters) – Australia has ordered the Chinese owner of a A$39 million ($31 million) Sydney mansion to sell up, the first crackdown on foreign residential purchases in nearly a decade amid government attempts to cool one of the world’s hottest property markets.

“Villa del Mare” was bought “illegally” in November by Golden Fast Foods Pty, a firm owned by Hong Kong-listed Evergrande Real Estate Group through a string of shell companies in Australia, Hong Kong and British Virgin Islands, Treasurer Joe Hockey said in a statement yesterday.

Golden Fast Foods has 90 days to sell the property or face legal measures, the statement said.

“Our company will fully cooperate with the arrangement by Australia’s authority to ensure the legality,” Evergrande’s vice president Ke Peng said in a statement, adding the company had appointed a local legal advisor in Australia to take full charge of this transaction when it bought the property.

Golden Fast Food was not immediately available to comment. One of the agents involved in the deal, Christie’s International Real Estate, said the property was purchased by an Australian company.

Australian property has long been a popular choice for Chinese money but investments appear to have accelerated in the past year as Beijing’s crackdown on corruption gathered momentum.

Australia restricts foreigners to buying new properties, but a parliamentary committee inquiry last year found widespread abuse of the system. Villa del Mare, with sweeping Sydney Harbour views and an infinity edge pool, is at least a decade old.

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