March 20, 2019

Mugabe’s luxury Hong Kong villa sold for a loss

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A Hong Kong luxury villa previously occupied by former First Lady Grace Mugabe and her daughter Bona – itself the subject of a dispute in the Hong Kong courts –has been sold for a 15 per cent loss, according to Hong Kong media reports.

Bought in 2008 by former Zimbabwean strongman Robert Mugabe, House 3 of JC Castle has been sold for HK$34 million (US$4.3 million), a loss of 15 per cent from its 2008 purchase price of HK$40 million, according to Century 21 Deluxe Home Property, which handled the transaction.

The agency did not identify the property’s buyer.

The villa’s seller, identified as a foreigner, “is not living here,” said the agency’s director Thomas Lo. “A loss is unusual for this area.”

The three-storey villa inside JC Castle bought by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe through a middleman is seen from a hill opposite the development at Tai Po district in northern Hong Kong February 16, 2009. JC Castle, the upmarket development, is owned by Albert Yeung’s Emperor Group and named after action star Jackie Chan. Mugabe has bought the villa worth around $5 million, the Sunday Times newspaper reported, as his country suffers from near total economic collapse. REUTERS/Bobby Yip (CHINA)

The transaction may close the chapter on a long-running dispute in the Hong Kong High Court over the villa’s ownership.

The villa was bought in 2008 by a company called Cross Global, and sold two years later at cost to its sole shareholder Hsieh Ping Sung, a Taiwan-born South African businessman and one-time Mugabe confidant.

Mugabe’s government sued Cross Global and Hsieh in 2014 to claim ownership of the 2,761-square foot villa, claiming “100 per cent beneficial” ownership of it, saying that the businessman had merely been holding it on trust. The former president’s second wife Grace, and their daughter Bona, had been staying in the villa since 2008 while the latter attended City University of Hong Kong under an alias.

Mugabe, who was pushed out of his presidency in 2017, retains full diplomatic status, and a lavish retirement package that included a house in Harare, vehicles and 23 staff members, according to a Zimbabwean government gazette. While in power, Mugabe had applied to the Hong Kong courts to annul Cross Global’s 2010 transfer of the JC Castle villa to Hsieh.

JC Castle, named in honour of action star Jackie Chan, was developed by real estate-and-entertainment tycoon Albert Yeung’s Emperor Group in 2002, comprising 26 villas clustered around three swimming pools.

CEFC, the former private energy conglomerate owned by missing Chinese oligarch Ye Jianming, offered a villa for sale in March last year, bought for HK$16 million in 2015.

A project called The Regent, developed by China Overseas Land & Investment, will be released for sale soon, marking the first launch this year for Hong Kong’s cooling home market. The first 324 units of the apartment project will launch for HK$10,688 per square foot after discounts of about 32 per cent from the other projects in Tai Po.

The launch of The Regent would stimulate the neighbourhood’s luxury residential projects, Lo said. — South China Morning Post

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