Home The Big Stories Could latest legal ruling finally spell the end for the Yida development?

Could latest legal ruling finally spell the end for the Yida development?

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Buildings can be seen on a cleared patch of land but there has been little other construction

By Gemma Handy

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It’s undoubtedly been one of the most controversial developments in the nation’s history.

Plans to build homes, resorts and factories across 2,000 acres of Antigua’s pristine north-east – encroaching on a marine reserve – ignited fury when first announced nine years ago.

Contention over the so-called Yida development – named after main investor Yida Zhang – has shown little sign of abating since, despite the sluggish pace of construction. 

Now, a High Court ruling authorising the sale of Zhang’s shares in his eponymous development firm could finally sound the death knell for the project which campaigners feared would have been an environmental disaster.

For years, Zhang has been locked in a legal battle with the Antiguan real estate firm that facilitated the sale of the land in 2014.

Jolly Harbour-based Lux Locations has been fighting to get US$3 million in commission – a sum agreed to with Zhang but never paid.

The case went as far as London’s Privy Council which in June ruled in Lux Locations’ favour.

Due to Zhang’s ongoing failure to pay up in full, the High Court has now ruled that Lux may sell any shares owned by Zhang in his company, Yida International Investment Antigua.

In an unusual move, instead of appointing a receiver to manage the sale, Judge Rene Williams has allowed Lux to sell the shares directly, under the court’s supervision, in a bid to speed up the process.

Lux will now value the shares and put them on the open market.

 “It is very unfortunate it has come to this, however after almost a decade of legal battles between Lux and Yida Zhang, it is clear that Yida is either unwilling or unable to pay his debt,” Lux Locations’ CEO Sam Dyson told Observer yesterday.

“As such, the High Court has ordered the sale of his company, Yida International Investment Antigua Ltd.”

In addition to authorising Lux Locations to sell the shares, the September 7 order makes a number of other provisions, including that Zhang must not in any way dispose of or diminish the value of the shares.

Zhang must also provide all information reasonably requested by Lux in writing to assist with the valuation of the shares within seven days of such request.

An accompanying penal notice also warns that Zhang may be liable to be imprisoned for contempt of court in the event of non-compliance.

Zhang may of course still pay up the outstanding commission – which is now said to top US$4 million with interest and legal fees – and proceed with the project.

If he does not, the land plus any assets can be sold to other developers either in its entirety or piecemeal.

Lux Locations says a number of interested buyers have already come forward.

Precisely why Zhang hasn’t paid up remains something of a mystery with conflicting reports about the level of his personal wealth. The Chinese national previously claimed not to have understood the document he signed with the firm.

The land originally sold for US$60 million and Zhang is believed to still own the vast majority.

The sprawling site – encompassing what was to be the country’s first special economic zone – includes a vast swathe of coastline along with uninhabited Guiana and Crump islands.

Government had hoped the project would spawn hundreds of jobs while the generous tax concessions would woo additional investors. It has repeatedly voiced its desire for work to resume.

Today, a clutch of buildings can be seen on a cleared patch of land but there has been little other construction.

The site encroaches on the protected North East Marine Management Area, whose abundant mangroves and translucent waters have long been a haven for endangered and endemic wildlife.

Read the full court ruling here:




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