Shiu-ly Some Mistake?

Shiu ly Some Mistake?

Bonfire of our hopes? Stella Shiu lights temple candles in Yanguan, Zhejiang Province. Photo: Wei Qianjiang

 

PREVIOUS Eyes have reported on Peel Group’s controversial “Mersey Waters” scheme, which promises to turn the former docklands of Liverpool and Birkenhead into a new Shanghai on the shore of the Irish Sea.

Granted Enterprise Zone status in 2011 by the coalition, the idea is that a “simplified” planning process, reduced business rates and “enhanced” capital allowances will encourage investment,1 creating tens of thousands of jobs and bringing prosperity to a deprived region. Liverpool and Wirral councils have uncritically accepted all Peel’s promises.

As yet, however, only one investor has surfaced publicly – the Chinese Sam Wa group, which has agreed to front half the dosh for the £175m “Peel International Trade Centre” (ITC),2 which will, according to the spin, bring hundreds of thrusting Asian businesses to Birkenhead.

Sam Wa, according to the Peel ITC website, is a “multi-million-dollar”3 business involved in ”ore mining and smelting, real estate, transport and logistics, international trades, jewellery, home appliances, cultural industry [sic], organic orchards and numerous global trading businesses”.4 While compiling an in-depth report into Peel’s influence in the region’s politics, think-tank ExUrbe asked shipping and trade professionals about Sam Wa. None had heard of it.5

Using the powerful Nexis database of newspaper stories, the Eye searched thousands of English-language publications worldwide for references to Sam Wa. There were only 17- all in the UK, all concerning the tie-up with Peel, and all but a couple in the local Merseyside press. There was no other reference, anywhere in the world, to this “multi-million-dollar” company or its international activities.

Sam Wa is chaired by the glamorous Stella Hon Huen Shiu, “an influential member of the Chinese government”, according to the website of Liverpool Vision, city mayor Joe Anderson’s “economic development company.”6 Her importance is such, says the Liverpool Daily Post, that “Kalashnikov-bearing bodyguards” accompany her at home.7

Ms Shiu is one of two directors of the joint venture Peel and Sam Wa Investments Ltd, the other being Lindsey Ashworth, Peel Holdings’ director of development. Despite “her reported seniority and influence”, notes the ExUrbe report, ”there is remarkably little information on record about Ms Shiu”.

Perhaps she is happy for things to stay that way. A Chinese citizen by the name of Stella Ching Yim Shiu, a former director of a dissolved company called Pacific Redhouse (UK) Limited, was declared bankrupt by Hong Kong authorities in 2008.8 ”Stella Shiu” is not a particularly unusual name. But a director report on Sam Wa’s Stella Hon Huen Shiu in Hong Kong’s companies register reveals that she is indeed the same person.9 It lists her “previous name” as Stella Ching Yim Shiu.

Peel promises to transform Liverpool’s fortunes by lining the banks of the Mersey with glass and steel towers. Let’s hope they’re not castles in the air.

 

First published in Private Eye Magazine, May 2013, Issue 1340.