A confiscated Beijing office tower in the shape of a dragon has been sold in an online auction by creditors looking to recover some of the 3 billion yuan (A$626 million) owed by fugitive real estate mogul Guo Wengui.
Creditors from the Bank of Shanghai seized the property in 2014 from Beijing Zenith Holdings after its director Guo fled to the US to evade the Chinese government’s corruption crackdown.
The 140,000 square metre Pangu Plaza Tower 5, which houses US technology firm IBM’s operations in China, was put up for sale online for 24-hours on Chinese retail giant Alibaba.
The unusual Pangu Plaza, designed by Taiwanese architect CY Lee, comprises four office buildings making up the body of a dragon, with a uniquely shaped taller fifth structure as its head. The commercial building is located alongside the Bird’s Nest Olympic stadium.
More than 145,000 internet users followed the auction, yet only two bidders put down the minimum 1 billion yuan (A$200m) deposit required to take part in the bidding — making their bids with 20 minutes remaining in the auction.
The winner, a Beijing-based property developer, snapped up the property for little more than its reserve price, about half the average price of comparable A-grade office towers in the region.
The group secured the tower for 5.1 billion yuan (A$1 billion) after it was claimed to be worth over 7.4 billion yuan (A$1.4 billion) — more than 40 per cent above the selling price.
The Bank of Shanghai had tried twice before to sell the commercial tower. In August 2018 creditors failed to find a buyer, while the second auction, with a 20 per cent discount across the entire portfolio, was scrapped earlier this year due to a lack of interest.
Guo has claimed that the property is worth even more. In a video uploaded to YouTube on Wednesday, he said the winning bid was only 10 per cent of its estimated value.
The building, previously known as the Morgan Centre, was originally developed by Beijing Capital Land.
Guo, allegedly hired a private intelligence firm to dig up dirt on Chinese nationals – including their bank records, porn habits and illegitimate children.
The project was then taken over by Guo in 2002 after Beijing Capital’s former chair Liu Xiaoguang was befallen by a sex scandal. Liu was later found guilty of corruption and given a suspended death sentence.
Guo, who goes by Miles Kwok and now lives in New York, built a sizeable fortune in real estate in China before apparently running afoul of the country’s government and fleeing in 2014.
Since Guo fled to the US, the Chinese government has accused him of a raft of crimes, including fraud and bribery as well as a former assistant accusing him of rape. Guo has denied the allegations against him, calling them politically motivated.
Few Chinese tycoons choose dissent, but Guo, whose property was seized and two brothers imprisoned since his exile, has publicly stated the campaign against him had been brewing for 30 years.