China Fund Tied To Angola and Guinea Owns Wall Street Real Estate

China International Fund, the little-known Hong Kong-registered company whose $7 billion minerals-and-infrastructure deal with Guinea last month grabbed headlines, has drawn scrutiny for its connections with a Chinese government-owned entity. But the Hong Kong company’s parent also has noteworthy ties elsewhere.

One connection involves Israeli diamond billionaire Lev Leviev and some prime New York real estate.

The majority owner of CIF is New Bright International Development, which also owns 70% of a joint venture with Sonangol, the Angolan national oil company.

The joint venture, which is called China Sonangol International Holdings, started talks about a year ago to buy about $710 million of Manhattan property owned by Leviev, according to a report by the U.S. Economic and Security Review Commission (PDF here).

Leviev, who has been negotiating recently to restructure his debts, manages some of his holdings through a company called AFI USA. Richard Marin, chief executive of AFI USA, said the only Manhattan real-estate transaction the company completed with China Sonangol was the $150 million purchase of the J.P. Morgan building at 23 Wall Street.

Talks over the New York Times building and the Clock Tower building didn’t advance, Marin said.

Meanwhile, Leviev and one of his companies at some point became a significant shareholder in a China Sonangol subsidiary listed in Hong Kong called China Sonangol Resources Enterprise Ltd. According to LionShares, Leviev owns 0.13% of China Sonangol Resources Enterprise, and his Africa-Israel Investments Ltd. owns 5.88% of the company.

The U.S. Economic and Security Review Commission report, and another broader report by London think tank Chatham House, detail an extended web of relationships for CIF, its principals and related companies.

Whatever else these relationships show, it’s clear that that CIF and its network are much bigger players in international business than their previous public obscurity might have suggested.

1 reply
  1. Joe Levin
    Joe Levin says:

    An intriguing new link has emerged that connects the web of scandals hovering over the deBlasio administration – and one of its key players, Jona Rechnitz – with a mysterious building sale on Wall Street.

    Rechnitz was serving as director of acquisitions and dispositions for real estate heavyweight Africa-Israel USA, a property of diamond industry leader Lev Leviev, when in 2008 it sold 23 Wall Street to a complex of companies entitled China Sonangol. The landmark building had been vacant for 13 years, a blight on an area filled with highly populated apartment and office towers.

    In late 2014, Rechnitz contacted New York Post writer Steve Cuozzo with a request to meet and discuss the “hot” inside information he had about the building’s sale to China Sonangol. Cuozzo was skeptical about Rechnitz’s reliability, as the development firm Rechnitz founded after his stint at Africa-Israel had not noticeably developed anything, but he agreed to the meeting.

    As Cuozzo observes in the New York Post, the rooms at Rechnitz’s Fifth Avenue real estate office were replete with photos of him with Mayor de Blasio and with high-ranking NYPD officials, including former Chief of Department Philip Banks. The ex-chief is being investigated on charges of accepting money from Rechnitz in exchange for favors and travel fees.

    Rechnitz informed the Post journalist that Sam Pa, a multi-billionaire who supposedly controls Sonangol, directed the company to purchase 23 Wall St. as well as a portion of an adjoining building for $150 million as a favor to his friend Leviev, who was in serious need of cash. Interestingly, Leviev was a victim of an allegedly Rechnitz-directed, in which the diamond king had significant amounts of his cash swindled and funneled to de Blasio’s election campaign.

    Rechnitz went on to claim that Sonangol was fooled into believing that – rather than buying the five-story 23 Wall St. – it was acquiring the landmark 50-story Madison Square Park Clocktower. The trick supposedly succeeded because Pa did not see the title papers until years later.

    Rechnitz tried to back up his wild story by making a series of speaker-phone calls to individuals who appeared to confirm the claims. He also told Cuozzo to call some well-known New York dealmakers with impeccable business histories. One of them was Richard Marin, a former Bear Stearns investment banker who had also served as the CEO of A-I USA.

    However, the Post writer soon discovered that Rechnitz’s details did not hold up. Investment-sale brokers told Cuozzo that Sonangol unquestionably had to know which building it was purchasing. In fact, Marin did not even go to work at Africa-Israel until after it had sold the 23 Wall Street tower to Sonangol.

    Moreover, Rechnitz’s speaker-phone contacts ducked out of responding to Cuozzo when he called them to try and obtain full confirmation – and Rechnitz did exactly the same. The result is that no one really knows the truth about 23 Wall Street. The only person who might actually have the real facts is Sam Pa, the alleged victim of an unprecedented scam. However, Pa was arrested by Chinese authorities in 2015 on corruption charges, and is nowhere to be found.

    And 23 Wall Street continues to remain unexplainably vacant until this very day.

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