Shenglin Xian, the renowned founder of Wealth One Bank and once celebrated as a Canadian immigrant success story, is now fighting against allegations of Chinese interference that have tainted his reputation and led to significant business implications.
From Immigrant Success to Alleged Political Pawn
When Xian first moved to Canada in 1993, his entrepreneurial journey began by selling bicycles imported from China. Rapidly advancing from selling insurance a year later, Xian quickly rose through the ranks to become one of the top brokers for London Life insurance. He also played a crucial role in former Prime Minister Jean Chretien’s trade mission to China in 2001. Xian’s dream of establishing a bank, later realized as Wealth One Bank, was primarily to serve new Chinese immigrants who struggled to secure credit from established institutions.
However, this triumphant story took a sharp turn recently. According to CTV National News, Xian expressed his distress: “I have not been treated fairly. I’ve been open and I’ve done nothing wrong. It’s hard for me to understand what is happening.”
Mounting Pressure and Unfavourable Leaks
Despite his efforts to be transparent by opening his records to investigators and providing extensive documentation detailing his personal, corporate banking transactions, and familial ties in China, Xian finds himself at the center of a political storm. The Canadian government, under the Liberal leadership, faced growing pressure surrounding allegations of a Chinese government orchestrated campaign that possibly impacted the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.
Further adding to his woes, Xian, a patron of one of the Big Five banks for over 20 years, had his account closed. He lamented to CTV News, “My reputation is ruined. I don’t have a bank account. I donated to a hospital – they rejected me. I applied for a credit card – they rejected me. I have a high income – that’s the bitter part.”
The Confidential Letter and Freeland’s Directives
Tensions escalated when Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland sent a letter last December, cautioning Xian and two other Wealth One shareholders, Morris Chen and Yuangshen Ou Yang, about potential susceptibility to coercion by the Chinese government. The letter also mentioned allegations of money laundering from other banks.
Freeland later ordered the trio to divest all their shares in Wealth One. In an April 24 letter that CTV News obtained, she expressed that, after much deliberation, Xian’s continued ownership of the shares “would be contrary to public interest as it would pose risks to the Bank and the broader financial system of Canada.”
Unreported Probes and their Findings
Joel Etienne, Xian’s personal lawyer, shared his surprise at these allegations, pointing out two independent investigations found no evidence of impropriety by Shenglin. According to the reports obtained by CTV News from Borden Ladner Gervais (BLG) and Price Waterhouse Cooper, while Xian’s potential susceptibility due to ties in China couldn’t be completely ruled out, there was no evidence of the bank being compromised or used as an instrument of foreign interference.
Paul Leonard, Wealth One CEO, in an email to CTV News, affirmed that the bank’s “operations adhere to all relevant laws, regulations, and orders.”
Xian’s Fight for Justice
Xian’s lawyer, Etienne, emphasizes the need for fairness. He said, “Canadians want to know that people are treated fairly. Over these past 10 months, there hasn’t been anything to demonstrate that Shenglin has not followed industry practices at all his businesses.”
The team plans on challenging Freeland’s directive to divest, though the specific legal action remains undisclosed. The options could include suing the government in federal court or launching a human rights complaint.
Despite the overwhelming challenges, Xian remains steadfast. “I’m sleeping because I’m confident. I didn’t do anything wrong,” he declared.
This report is based on information and an exclusive interview with Shenglin Xian conducted by CTV National News.